The residents of the small town of Aberdeen could have sworn that Truly’s mother was carrying a boy. After all, no girl could stretch a woman’s belly to such an enormous size. Defying all expectations, Truly thumps into the world to the noise of neighbors bidding on the “boy’s” weight in the front yard. Her mother dies in childbirth, leaving her father clueless as to how to raise Truly and her older sister, Serena Jane.
Before Truly is officially labeled a giant by her grade school teacher, it is painfully obvious to everyone, her father included, that she is no ordinary toddler. In a stark contrast to the beautiful and dainty Serena Jane, Truly looks ridiculous in girly outfits that seem ready to rip at the seams and wears men’s shirts by the time she turns one. When the girls’ father passes away soon after their mother, Serena Jane is taken in and regaled by the bishop’s family, while Truly is sent to live on a farm with an outcast Dyerson family.
Truly grows up acutely aware of her differences and her burgeoning size. In a tiny community like Aberdeen, fingers are pointed, her growing frame discussed, and school bullies have an endless supply of torments. She finds solace in friends that are equally odd in the eyes of others: the silent Amelia Dyerson and the small, but brilliant, Marcus. Serena Jane, meanwhile, grows up pampered and spoiled, only to have her dreams of fame snuffed by a marriage to the future town doctor, Bob Bob Morgan.
In a series of events, Truly leaves the Dyerson farm and moves in with Bob Bob, who is as obsessed with finding the cause for Truly’s ever expanding size as he was with Serena Jane’s beauty and self-importance. In between preparing meals and cleaning after the doctor, Truly becomes consumed with discovering the witchcraft legacy in the Morgan family past and finding the book of spells left behind by the late Tabitha Morgan. What she uncovers presents her with the type of power and acceptance she never knew because of her appearance, but also causes outcomes she never anticipated.
Given the praise that this novel has received, I had high hopes for The Little Giant of Aberdeen County and was disappointed that it did not altogether live up to my expectations. The Little Giant was a good book, but not a great one, and left me feeling indifferent towards the story and the characters.
The Little Giant had the components of a compelling novel, – the outcast of a main character, the vain sister, the mean spirited neighbors, and some witchcraft sprinkled in – but somehow these never came together in an interesting way. Truly’s size was always at the forefront, overshadowing other characters’ development. At times, her character felt almost supernatural and it was unclear whether or not that was the author’s intention. That said, I think Tiffany Baker did an excellent job of portraying normal characters versus those who would be considered “different”, and showing that even beauty, or wealth, or intelligence is not a guarantee of a happy ending.
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County can foster interesting book club discussions. Please visit Hachette’s site for a Reading Group Guide.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Hachette Book Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.