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Blessed are the Cheesemakers    by Sarah-Kate Lynch order for
Blessed are the Cheesemakers
by Sarah-Kate Lynch
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Cheese is the deus ex machina that knots together three different story threads in this whimsical, wistful tale that takes us (and a couple of bemused protagonists) from New York and a remote South Seas island to County Cork, Ireland. There we meet two old men (one of whom is fey), famed cheesemakers who help young women with a 'bun in the oven' by hiring them as milkmaids - they 'need girls who can hold a tune and who don't eat meat to hand-milk the cows.' It's all a bit bizarre - at times clownish - but also a lot of fun.

The story opens on Corrie and Fee (Joseph Corrigan and Joseph Feehan) hankering for Corrie's long lost granddaughter Abbey as they celebrate her birthday with their pernickety Princess Grace Memorial Blue cheese. Another piece of the Princess rots angrily in the SoHo refrigerator of Kit Stephens, devastated by the loss of his wife Jacey and their unborn child. Kit has thrown his career down the toilet and is about to follow it when his ex-secretary Niamh sends him to Avis O'Regan (who works for Corrie and Fee) for rehabilitation.

Where's Abbey? She's spent years 'daydreaming her life away' in a spartan, loveless existence with her husband Bruce/Martin on Ate'ate ('two miles long and one mile across') in the isolated Sullivanese Islands. After her life there is revealed to be a lie and she suffers a subsequent betrayal from her actress mother in London, Abbey also ends up with Corrie and Fee at Coolarney House. There the old men plot while they ply Kit and Abbey with the magical 'Coeur de Coolarney' cheese, or at least with its fumes.

There's a bit of a mystery (the fate of both Kit's and Corrie's wives), a hint of the supernatural, a touch of romance, a few surprises, and a bellyful of farce, from the fart that is Abbey's husband's name to the 'pregnant singing vegetarian milkmaids'. But the old men steal the show. One is logical and the other intuitive, but they share a deep, longstanding friendship. You may think you've strayed into never never land as you begin this novel, but by the end you'll be a believer in 'the magic in cheese'.

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