Editor’s note: The following three synopses of books were provided by the respective publishing companies:

“The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole,” by Stephanie Doyon, who grew up in Lisbon and now lives in the Brunswick area; Simon & Schuster; $24; FMI: www.simonsavs.com.

Welcome to Cedar Hole: a mossy, dank town where only the grass seems to possess ambition. Trapped for generations by their lack of initiative, imagination and optimism, the contentious locals are connected only by their distrust of the outside world. “No one came to Cedar Hole by choice or accident,” writes Stephanie Doyon. “They were delivered only by the hand of misfortune … after all other prayers, favors and bargains had been thoroughly exhausted.”

A funny, inspiring tale of hope in the face of despair, and a graceful consideration of what it means to be good, “The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole” is a finely crafted homage to the human spirit. It bares the enormous soul of its characters and the small town that is their world with precision, honesty and touching humor.

A veteran of teen fiction, Doyon’s adult debut has been heralded by the likes of Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo (“Empire Falls”), who praises the “wry, wicked sympathetic intelligence [that] informs every page of her winning, hilarious first novel.”

Into the gloomy world of Cedar Hole are born two boys, Robert J. Cutler and Francis “Spud” Pinkham, who couldn’t be more different. Robert is a wise, courteous boy who effortlessly earns the admiration of those around him. Clean, good, bright and resilient, he is a shining light in dreary Cedar Hole, and his optimism and faith in the town are unshakable.

Francis, like the town, lacks confidence, vitality or distinction. Forced for much of his life to exist in the dark, deeply etched shadow of Robert’s accomplishments, he struggles against everyone’s expectations, including his own, to find his own niche of success and happiness. The youngest of 10 children, and the only boy, Francis’ childhood is one of mere survival.

Helplessly yearning to rise above his situation and family reputation, Francis tries in small ways to please others while fatalistically accepting that Robert’s very existence excludes him from recognition. It isn’t until an elderly couple takes Francis under their wing and, for the first time, provides him with unconditional approval that Francis begins to dream of distinguishing himself.

Like Robert, Francis eventually marries a woman from Palmdale – the beautiful, kind, hopeful Anita. As he struggles to make ends meet, he also struggles to become a good man, occasionally faltering due to years of social scarring. A brush with wealth brings Francis the respect of his peers; but while he, like Robert, is also inherently good, his road to redemption will be morally circuitous.

The competition between Francis and Robert that follows them into adulthood is rounded out by a large cast of endearing, quirky characters. Among them is Delia Pratt, the trashy and delusional schoolteacher who is having a less-than-torrid affair with the town’s milquetoast policeman; Kitty Higgins, the decay-obsessed librarian who is stunted by her loveless marriage to a lecherous butcher; and Nadine Cutler, Robert’s teenage daughter, who is mortified by her unyielding, vengeful mother. The characters’ lives are woven together with great care and delicacy, forming an intricate web of relationships that unravels in startling ways by the end of the novel.

“The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole” offers a glimpse into the dreams and potential that reside within all of us, and in the heart of every small town.

Doyon has worked as ghostwriter for several popular teen series. Her own series, “On the Road,” was published by Simon & Schustcr in 1999. “The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole” is her first adult novel.


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