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[165] The Little Giant of Aberdeen County – Tiffany Baker

Advanced Reader’s Copy
Publication: January 8, 2009
Hachette Book Group USA

“She may have had a whole lovely garden spread out at her feet, but in her heart, she still thought of herself as a weed—unlovely, uncultivated, unwelcome even in her own backyard. Everything in the world has its two faces, however.” [269]

There is no character more stigmatized than Truly Plaise. She’s all bumps and bulges, even when her mother conceives her in the womb. Lily Plaise’s knees buckle under the monstrous belly and mutinous breasts. Born bigger than life, against the heavy odd that it will be a boy, pressing fatally the frontiers of her mother’s body like a balloon, her father blames her for her mother’s death in childbirth. Truly’s heavy and round physiognomy consigns her to among the cooties: the abnormal, the unfit, and the ugly. She’s the miserable anithesis to her sister two years of her senior, who is an “epitome of feminist perfection.”

When Mr. Plaise dies, the reverend’s wife, who believes Truly is the making of Satan, adopts her sister and leaves her to the mercy of the Dyersons in the farm. While Truly’s epic proportions make her subject of constant curiosity and humiliation, Serena Jane’s beauty proves to be her biggest blessing and the worst curse, for it targets her as the obsession of Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in the Morgan lineage, Aberdeen’s family doctors for generations. In spite of Bob Bob’s years of scrutiny of Serena Jane, they are no more than physical lumps that co-exist in the same house, for they know little to nothing about each other.

Part II sees the change of wind in the novel as Truly moves into the Bob Bob’s house to take care her nephew after her sister leaves for good. It’s not until long she perceives her brother-in-law’s ulterior motive for wanting her in the house: his hungry, morbid fascination with her physical anomalies. She’s no more than a subject to him. Sealed into the new domestic arrangement are betrayals and lies that are not only too big to whittle down but also are stories where once you know the truth, you regret knowing.

“If a secret has an answer, it’ll out on its own if it’s meant to, and if it doesn’t, then maybe providence has a better reason for keeping it hidden.” [312]

Truly’s coincidental (and timely) discovery of a family secret, some apothecary recipes penned by the witch-wife of the first Morgan, might be the key to survive Bob Bob’s cruelties. But this revelation also confronts the ethical and moral decisions between life and death, for she is in possession of a power that, in evil hands, could subvert nature’s pace.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County muses on the invincibility of death to which all human beings have to succumb regardless of their status. Written in a voice that demarcates the boundary between fairy tale and reality, it redefines mercy, and ponders at the truth that love cannot be ordered to outward appearance and first impression. Isolation is also a key theme. Habitual bitterness reaps emptiness into everyone’s life in the book. Bob Bob sulks, Serena Jane flees for freedom, Priscilla Sparrow (school-teacher) dies alone, Bobbie (doctor’s gay son) hates his father, Marcus (the veteran) loses the familiar language of his senses. Truly lets her diagnosis isolate her from her best friends. These characters are like lonely archipelagos, rendered completely helpless in their secrets. As befit to the metaphors that are redolent throughout the book, they are all choked by their weeds in life.

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9 Responses

  1. Great review, though the book sounds like a little bit of a downer. You may like the Auster book more than I did; don’t not read it because of my review. 🙂

  2. Great review, Matt. It seems like a very interesting book. I’ll keep my eye on it.

  3. This one sounds very magical although depressing.

  4. Marie:
    Thanks Marie. The Auster sounds like an interesting read. I’ll keep my eye on it. 🙂

  5. John:
    It’s a bit of a twist at the end. I’m not completely resolved about the ending. Maybe you can be the judge! 🙂

  6. Ken:
    Literature somehow reflects the brutality and cruelty of life! 🙂

  7. I’m so wanting to read this book – thanks for the review Matt!

  8. I’m so wanting to read this book – thanks for the review Matt!

  9. Iliana:
    This book actually distantly resonates The Hummingbird’s Tale in terms of the special gift and the obstacle. You’ll enjoy it. 🙂

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