Tiffany Baker’s novel THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY was published in 2009 but it is one of my favorite reads of the year for 2014. I was slow to the party on this one!
Here are 10 takeaways I gleaned from Baker’s wonderful writing style:
- PLOT: THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY is a tale about Truly Plaice’s upbringing, as influenced by the inciting incident: Truly’s unusual birth. It becomes a formative condition of her entire existence–because Truly was an unusually large baby and her size continues to be an issue for her, as she has a condition known as acromegaly (giantism). From her mother dying in childbirth to her lifelong comparison with her gorgeous sister Serena Jane, this story hits on some universal themes and societal cruelties as Truly eventually finds her ways to deal with it all.
- BEGINNING PAGES: I tend to like books that are different from other books I’ve read, right from the first few pages. This one begins with Truly attending a burial of one of the other characters and commenting that she was not cold despite the winter day because there were “layers and layers of me folded together like an accordion.” This immediate focus on her body image even at a mournful time like a funeral drew me in because it was an interesting break from the speculative fiction I read.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Truly’s character is a well-rounded character because she is feminine while breaking nearly every trope of femininity. I found that very interesting. As the story goes on, we see Truly become more morally-complex as well, so that her final decisions in the novel are difficult to guess. I know I guessed them wrong, so even though I didn’t particularly love how it ended, it certainly won points from me for having a multi-dimensional main character.
- SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: Most other characters in the book were vivid and well-written, with distinct motivations and oddities. Serena Jane and Robert Morgan were a bit flat as characters–but interestingly, this was one of those cases where that actually helped the story as a whole. The more full characters to me were Truly’s best friend as well as her most despised teacher, because their morally-complex choices seemed to directly influence Truly’s. It seemed as though the author was very particular in setting up her supporting characters.
- POINT OF VIEW: I thought the point of view was dead on and probably very difficult to achieve, being not just first-person but what I’ll call ‘first-person real-time’–or in other words, when Truly was a child, she tells us the story more from a child’s perspective. And yet, the author effectively blended that with adult vocabulary and such. It was fascinating to me as a writer!
- SETTING OR WORLD-BUILDING: This was one of those ‘every-town’ book settings. Maybe a little more could have been done with the titular Aberdeen County, because it did not stand out for me. That said, not every book has to shine in every story element, so at least I can say the setting and world were not distracting.
- MOOD & PACING: The setting was well-established as far as mood. The terrible experiences Truly has because of her size really brought me in to her mental and emotional environment. That turmoil was sustained even as the pacing clipped along, which was nice because a story about pain can tend to be arduous. This one kept moving.
- ENDING: Again, the ending surprised me and finished the story arc beautifully, even if I didn’t personally like the ending. If you’re a person looking for an overt moral takeaway, maybe skip this one. I found a lot of interesting themes or messages to think about, however–not the least of which is the incredible pain our continuing societal focus on looks and norms places on each of us.
- LANGUAGE: Absolutely fascinating, the descriptions in this book. At times the author’s language about Truly’s experiences borders on poetry, to wonderful effect. This contrasted nicely with the at times innocent perspective of Truly. I found myself smiling often at turns of phrase.
- QUIRK FACTOR: I like to see quirky elements in a story, and my favorite touches of that came in Truly’s experiences dealing with a common problem of uncommon proportion, as well as how Truly is affected by the legacy of a reportedly magical witch woman, Tabitha Dyerson, with her mysterious quilt and an expansive study of herbs. This added a really interesting texture to this novel.
So if you need a book recommendation and all this sounds interesting, you might want to check out THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY. Great read! I’m excited to check out her book from 2013, THE GILLY SALT SISTERS.
Happy reading or writing, and happy holidays!