Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
Grand Central Publishing, copyright 2009
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780446194228
Meet Truly Plaice-part behemoth, part witch, part Cinderella. Born larger than life into a small-minded town, Truly breaks her family into smithereens. Her mother dies during Truly’s birth, and when her father follows shortly afterward, Truly and her dainty sister, Serena Jane, are destined for very different fates. As Truly grows larger and larger on a rundown farm, she watches lovely Serena Jane become the town’s adored May Queen and the obsession of a local boy, Bob Bob Morgan–the youngest in a line of Aberdeen’s doctors, who for generations wove their influence among the town’s citizens. Yet no matter how far apart life propels them, Truly and her sister are forever linked. And Truly will find her future shaped by Serena Jane’s relationships, the centuries-old antique of Doctor Morgan’s, and the reality that love cannot be ordered to size.

My Thoughts:
In The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, Tiffany Baker's debut novel, we meet Truly Plaice, a woman who has been super-sized since her birth. Truly knows she is different and the polar opposite of her older sister, Serena Jane, who epitomizes a delicate, lovely female. Their mother dies after Truly's birth and their father tries to care for them as long as he can, but ends up having to have the girls cared for by others. By the time their father also dies, Truly and Serena Jane are separated and being cared for by different families.
Truly knows she's different, but on her first day of school she hears the label "giant" for the first time from the teacher, Priscilla Sparrow. Miss Sparrow sends a note home, wanting Truly to go to the doctor, but Truly's father blames Dr. Morgan for his wife's death and doesn't want his daughter turned into a "circus freak". He doesn't understand that she may have an underlying medical condition.
After their father dies, Truly and Serena Jane lead completely opposite lives with different families. Serena Jane leads a pampered life in town, destined to be a future Aberdeen May Queen, while Truly is sent out to live in the country with a poor family. Serena Jane's beauty makes her the target of classmate Bob Bob Morgan's obsession, a desire that is even more malignant than his need to torment Truly. Bob Bob is the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations but also related to the wife of the first Dr. Morgan, Tabitha Dyerson, who was rumored to be the town witch. The location of her shadow book, a book containing her secrets for healing and perhaps darker powers, has been searched for and talked about for years.
Circumstances bring the diverse cast of characters in Baker's novel together... and with that I'll stop. There was quite a buzz about The Little Giant of Aberdeen County when it first came out so, although many of you have likely read or heard about it, I don't want to spoil the story for those who haven't.
Baker's writing is skillful and creative writer. The narrative is compelling and Baker's use of language is unique. There were really some wonderfully written passages and descriptions. In a twist, she gives Truly a first-person omniscient narrative voice in The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. I was totally immersed in this novel and anxious to finish it.
I did have a couple qualms about The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. First, Serena Jane is raped by Bob Bob and the rather casual way it was treated bothered me. The second thing that bothered me was the third and final part of the book was not quite up to the expectations I had developed after reading the first two parts. It just wasn't quite as good - however I'll still very highly recommend it


The day I laid Robert Morgan to rest was remarkable for two reasons. First, even though it was August, the sky overhead was as rough and cold as a January lake; and second, it was the day I started to shrink.
I remember standing by the open grave, the muddy earth clotted like wet dung, waiting for Robert Morgan’s body to be lowered into the hole. The other, scattered mourners had begun to take chill and leave, but I wasn’t cold. There were layers and layers of me folded together like an accordion. So many that I would be warm in a blizzard. I could stand naked at the North Pole and be just fine. opening

I threw a fistful of earth onto the coffin and held my breath for the accompanying thud. I thought of all the patients Robert Morgan had buried and wondered if any of them were down there, waiting to meet him. If so, were they a polite ensemble with decorously folded hands or a nasty throng, eager to anoint him with the press of rotten flesh? I thought of all the other Dr. Robert Morgans scattered around the cemetery—four of them in total—and imagined one subsuming the other like those cannibalistic Russian nesting dolls, the parts of them mixed together into a Frankenstein monster of local history. pg.4

As it happens, however, my feet are bigger than most men’s, along with my hands, my hips, my neck, and the vast expanse of my shoulders and back. And the only parade I’ve ever attended is the defunct May Day festival, where the mayor used to drive a gaggle of the town’s prettiest girls down Main Street in his convertible. Every year, it was the same. Dick Crane, senile in the end but still able to perform this one civic task, beeped the horn of his classic Caddy, and the girls all screamed and waved, hysterical with their own beauty.
Even before I gained all the weight, my body pressing outward like a balloon getting ready to take flight, I was always huge. Solid as granite, my father used to say, and twice as thick. Not like your sister, that’s for sure. Serena Jane takes after your mama. A real living doll. Which was, after all, the whole reason Robert Morgan wanted my sister in the first place, even if he had to stalk her and steal her away like the wolf in a fairy tale. pg. 7

And at that moment, the hard stone I’d been carrying around in my chest—the one that weighed as much as all of Aberdeen’s tombstones piled together, the one that kept me pinned inside Robert Morgan’s house, even on days when the town roses made the air into a honeyed liqueur—that stone began to melt, sending oily tears slicking down my cheeks. I wiped them away, ashamed to be blubbering over something as silly as a crow bobbing in a great big sky, but relieved, nonetheless, to be standing under something huge enough to contain me. You see, for the first time in longer than I could remember, I’d found something larger than me. pg. 9

Technically speaking, I guess you could say I killed Robert Morgan, but I did it only because he insisted on it, and because death had clearly already gotten its mealy hands on him, and because I knew the very act of asking must have made him madder than hell.
“Look at me,” he’d cackle from the foul nest of covers on his bed, “and then take a look at you. It just doesn’t seem right.” I knew what he meant.  pg. 11

 “Do you want to know the difference between a good story and the truth?” When he didn’t respond, I went ahead and gave him the answer. “The little bits, Robert Morgan. That’s all. If you get those right, you can get away with murder.” I smiled and patted his arm. Then I finished off the tapioca. pg. 12
She was one of those women who needed to hold dominion over something smaller than her, and that was always the whole problem between us. I was never minute enough to squeeze through the cracks of her world. pg. 34
If the purpose of education is to reshape the self, carving and digging like a whittler's blade, then my education surely began on a glimmering autumn morning in 1958 when I heard myself called "giant" for the first time. pg. 45

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