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The Mammoth Cheese: A Novel Hardcover – September 27, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871139006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139009
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,257,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sheri Holman's The Mammoth Cheese is the Mississippi River of novels. It winds along through most of the great themes of American fiction (tradition vs. innovation, the weight of the past, the dehumanizing effects of industrialization, the rifts between parents and children, men and women), picking up bits of history along the way, and carrying you wherever Holman wishes. The opening pages introduce at least 15 characters (not including the 11 premature babies born to dog trainer Manda Frank), a rough outline of the history of Three Chimneys, Virginia, and more information on small-farm cheesemaking than you might ever have thought you'd would want to learn, let alone absorb with fascination. Along with its moving themes, the pleasures of this novel are in Holman's grasp of human (and not only human) nature, and her gift for expressing this through unexpected details of daily life--that the cows in the local dairy give more milk when Sinatra's playing; that the dirty secret under an eighth-grade girl's mattress is Bride Magazine. Her inconspicuous flashes of verbal brilliance may go unnoticed by all but the most observant readers, but they lend sparkle to a complex and ambitious novel. --Regina Marler

From Booklist

This big but nimble novel, by the author of the well-received Dress Lodger (2000), is absolutely compelling in its swift satire, yet readers will also respond to its deep sympathies for "well-foibled" individuals. The setting is the little Virginia town of Three Chimneys, which has just experienced a record-setting event: the multiple births of 11 infants to a young, unsophisticated couple artificially helped in their pursuit of fertility. National focus on the little burg is enhanced with the visit of presidential candidate Adams Brooke. One avid supporter of Brooke is local cheese maker Margaret Prickett, whose dairy farm is in financial distress; what Margaret appreciates in Brooke's candidacy is his avid support of the small farmer. But as the weeks go on, and as the babies begin to die, the townspeople, to make themselves look good again, endeavor to take a giant cheese, created by Margaret, to Washington, D.C., to duplicate an act that apparently happened during Thomas Jefferson's presidency. Human nature exposed at its rawest--and most entertaining. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Too absurd to really explain.
Diana E. Young
I loved this book, the characters, the story, and the magnificent prose of this gifted author.
Rosie Jaybee
In the end, I just wanted to be done with the book and forget I ever read it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
You gotta give credit to someone willing to title her book The Mammoth Cheese. Luckily, the story stands strong against the title. This is a more sprawling work than Holman's The Dress Lodger. While its geographic base is pretty focused, rarely leaving the small town it is set in, the story spins through a large number of characters and several major plotlines, including a pending farm foreclosure, a Presidential election, the aftermath of a divorce, the birth of 11 babies to one mother, a spiritual crisis, several mid-life crises, unrequited love, a growing relationship between a teacher and his pupil though whether it tends toward good or bad remains up in the air for a while, and of course, the creation and transport of the mammoth cheese itself. That's a lot to tackle and Holman admirably handles the load. As one might expect with so many characters, some are not as fully fleshed out as one would like. The history teacher and the ex-husband in particular I thought were a bit weak in their portrayal, as is the mother of 11 until somewhat later in the book. While their lack of full depth is noticeable, it does not detract over much from the work as a whole. And their somewhat shallow development is more than made up for by the rest of the characterization, which is deeply satisfying. One begins to care for and root for these characters early on. We take on their hopes and desires along with their despair and fear.Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on July 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As I was reading Sheri Holman's new novel, THE MAMMOTH CHEESE, on the subway, I received countless comments from strangers on the book's title. "THE MAMMOTH CHEESE," more than one person said to me, "What's THAT about?" Although many of the novel's situations --- and certainly its title --- are rather absurd, the novel touches on themes that are anything but silly.
Sheri Holman, whose previous novels, A STOLEN TONGUE and THE DRESS LODGER, were set in Palestine and England, respectively, here writes a novel that is not only American in its setting and scope but also quintessentially American in its themes of self-reliance, family obligation and, most importantly, independence. In many ways THE MAMMOTH CHEESE is an extended meditation on the concept of independence, explored through the examples of several carefully drawn small-town folks from rural Three Chimneys, Virginia.
There's Manda Frank, part of Three Chimneys's most notorious white-trash family, who finds herself the mother of eleven babies after a fertility drug proves a little too effective. Counseled by her pastor to keep all the babies, Manda is completely bewildered by her new responsibilities. When some of the babies start to die, Manda is torn between anguish at her loss and relief at the prospect of regaining the freedom she has always valued and the ability to hunt and roam the woods with her beloved dogs, a freedom that motherhood seems to have stolen entirely.
Also struggling with his own independence is August Vaughn. By day, August is a farmhand on Margaret Prickett's small dairy farm. By night, he dresses up as Thomas Jefferson to interpret Jefferson's life and writings to audiences of locals and tourists alike.
Read more ›
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I cannot recall the last time I read as entertaining and smart a book as the Mammoth Cheese. It's a really smart book about family, destiny, love, and, alas, the government and the ways in which power is obtained and maintained. All of this manifest's in young Polly March's life and a far as narrators go, I haven't come across as interesting a young woman since I read Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye. Sheri Holman nails the sense of a girl beginning to think and live her own life so vividly that I could not put the book down. I was just riveted.
This is a big, important, lovable, endearing book. Don't miss it!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Is it my imagination, or is it getting harder and harder to find mainstream literary fiction that doesn�t stink? Fortunately, just as my cynicism is just about to peak, along comes Sheri Holman and The Mammoth Cheese. Holman�s manages to be witty, complex and absorbing all at once. Her novel brilliantly weds personal and political themes in a way that seems utterly natural. In fact, it is natural to wed personal and political themes, and the real genius of this book is to show how political corruption and neglect trickle down to the personal level, and how personal corruption and neglect affect the larger political scene. But never once does the novel come across as ponderous or affected. You�ll keep turning the pages not because of Holman�s sophisticated ideas but because the book is just so fun to read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By rsm on January 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've read this and The Dress Lodger. Consider this a comment on them both.

Sheri Holman's characters are, each and every one of them, beautifully flawed. They are drawn out to the very detail, and she never ever takes the easy way out and makes them just good or bad. The plots she comes up with are far-fetched and bizarre, but she does this with incredibly real characters, which, if you ask me, makes for incredibly well-written novels.
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