Picks and Pans Review: The Mammoth Cheese

updated 08/25/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/25/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Sheri Holman

There's a media frenzy in the little burg of Three Chimneys, Va., where, thanks to fertility drugs, "white trash" Manda Frank has given birth to 11 babies. When interest-a fades, though, the town pastor, Leland Vaughn, wants another feel-good story to get the town back into the limelight—and along the way drive cheese maker Margaret Prickett into his lovelorn son's arms. Vaughn convinces Margaret to make a half-ton "Mammoth Cheese" and deliver it to a presidential candidate, as was once done for Thomas Jefferson.

This panoramic social novel with a needle-sharp point of view sends up both small-town America and politics. There's mordant social commentary, discussions of Jeffersonian civic ideals and bittersweet romance, plus more than you needed to know about cow midwifery. (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24) BOTTOM LINE: Enjoyable slice of Americana

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