Monday, July 26, 2010
Tiffany Baker's Little Giant of Aberdeen County ~ Reviewed
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County [Paperback]
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (January 25, 2010)
When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of feminine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.
Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.
When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.
Tiffany Baker has written a hefty novel about a giant woman, cruel people, and making a life out of the life that is given. Told in a unique omniscient voice but first person narrative, we get to know Truly, a woman who has seen little love and much scorn. The reader follows her through birth to her late thirties/early forties so the time frame taken on is impressive.
With colorful similes, Baker has created this unlikely heroine who sees life from a tower of flesh and girth and through the lens of an outcast. Not light in the reading because the plot line contains plenty of death, there is still an overall brooding hopefulness within the story. I didn't find many laughs within this novel as a gray cloud of melancholy hung over Truly.
The novel digs deeper and covers more territory than I expected, though the opening paragraphs told me that there would be moments of both light and darkness. It's hard to suggest Little Giant to a specific genre fan. Literary fiction lovers should like the tone and the tale unless bothered by similes because there are quite a few. Those who just want a feel good story may want to hesitate to make sure they know what they are jumping into with Little Giant. Yes, it's feel good but it's not easy feel-good, instead it requires a lot from those who read it and the story may haunt them after the final page is turned. I definitely wouldn't suggest it to chick-lit junkies or inspirational fiction lovers. If you are a fan of Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone you may find Truly to be bigger than the pages who hold her. Some have likened Little Giant to the movie Big Fish and there is definitely a tone that the two share.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer