Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

I'd heard so many good things about The Little Giant of Aberdeen County that by the time I had a chance to read it, my expectations were high. I was pleased to discover that the book exceeded these expectations. Tiffany Baker has penned a story with unique characters and a captivating plot. I never knew from one chapter to the next where she was taking me, and I got so caught up in her beautiful writing that I just went with the flow and didn't try to figure it all out.

(There may be some spoilers in my description of the plot, which is pretty complex, though I tried to keep to the events described on the book jacket. If you want to avoid these, please scroll down.)

The book opens with Truly Plaice standing at the grave of a Dr. Robert Morgan. There's some animosity between them, and you soon learn there have been several Dr. Robert Morgans in Aberdeen since the first deserted the Confederate Army during the Civil War, made his way to New York, and married Tabitha, the area's "witch" or herbal healer. She supposedly left her "shadow book" with her healing recipes hidden in the Morgan home, but no one had found it and no one knew whether it really existed.

From this graveyard scene, we are transported back in time to the early 1950s and the start of Truly's story. Her mother dies giving birth to the larger-than-life Truly, who quickly outgrows her older sister's hand-me-downs and keeps growing, leaving their grief-stricken father unsure how to feed or clothe her. Truly suffers from a form of gigantism, a condition out of her control, but she is shunned by pretty much everyone in Aberdeen. When her father dies, her beautiful, perfect sister Serena Jane goes to live with the Reverend Pickerton and his wife, and Truly goes to the rundown Dyerson farm. The Dyersons are good people, but they are very poor, and while Truly doesn't have the nicest clothes or a lot to eat, she is content. Truly bonds with the daughter, Amelia Dyerson, who is known for having trouble with words, and Marcus Thompson, the smartest and smallest boy in their class who obviously is fond of Truly. Truly and Serena Jane drift apart, and ultimately Truly's life is forever changed because of Tabitha's "shadow book."

(End of possible spoilers)

Baker's writing style pulled me in from the first page, and it seemed so Southern to me, along with the characters and the setting, that I had to keep reminding myself it took place in New York. Telling the story from Truly's point of view, Baker does a great job getting into the mind of this complex character. Here's one of my favorite passages:

"She looks like she eats plenty to me," Cally gibed, but Estelle quieter her with a frown.

"It's not her fault she's built like a Sherman tank. Besides, maybe in her situation it's better. Look at Serena Jane. Beauty only landed her in a rat's nest of trouble."

The three women fell silent then, staring into their empty plates and ruminating on the paradoxical connection between opportunity and loveliness that Serena Jane and I presented. Without beauty, I knew, life's possibilities might pass me up, but too much loveliness was clearly a liability. It was like a train wreck, pulling in trouble. So in the end, maybe it really was me who was better off, I thought. I was ugly--no one was going to dispute that--but I was also so big that nothing in life was going to slide past me. And if it did, then maybe I was smart enough to let it keep going. (page 123 in the ARC--might differ from the published book)
I really felt for Truly, and while I couldn't agree with many of her actions during the course of the story, I could see why she did what she did. Even the unlikeable characters, like Bob-Bob and the mean teacher Miss Sparrow, were interesting and gave a fullness to the story. Baker covers a whole range of themes, from healing to the definition of beauty, but the storyline that touched me the most was Marcus and Truly's relationship. It's really hard to put my thoughts about this wonderful book into words. Baker covered a lot of ground, and it's hard to believe The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is her first novel. You'll just have to snag a copy and find out for yourself.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County also was reviewed by:

Maw Books Blog

The Book Lady's Blog
she reads and reads
A Bookworm's World
Bibliophile By the Sea
Medieval Bookworm
Peeking Between the Pages

If you've also reviewed it, let me know in the comments, and I'll add your link!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County from Hachette for review purposes.


Serena said...

I have this book on my shelves to read and I may just have to move it up the pile now!

bermudaonion said...

I thought I was the last person to read this one. I'm glad it met your expectations, because mine are really high too.

Ti said...

I'm glad this one met your expectations. Someday I will get to this one. My list is getting longer and longer as each day passes.

Julie P. said...

I loved the writing style! Fantastic book!

ANovelMenagerie said...

I want to read this one, too!

Lucky you!


Anonymous said...

Oh, tell Bermudaonion and Ti that they're not last ... I haven't even got it on my TBR yet, only that ever-growing wish list :)

I'm so glad to know LITTLE GIANT met/surpassed your expectations. Sometimes when there's a big build up we're disappointed!

Staci said...

I've seen this all over the book blogs and it sounds great. Glad to know that you too enjoyed it!! I've seen it on my library shelves several times and have had to fight the urge to grab it only because I have so many checked out right now!! I look forward to reading it soon!!

S. Krishna said...

I really want to read this one. Thanks for the review!

Unknown said...

I have this one hanging out in my TBR piles too. I think I'll move it a little closer to the top after reading your review!

Toni said...

I found the book fantastic also. AWESOME review. I agree with that the writing was captivating enough to keep me reading no matter where the story was going.

Tara said...

I really liked this too! Here's a cool about about how the cover was designed:

Corinne said...

loved it loved it loved it :) So glad you did too!

Darlene said...

Great review Anna. I loved this book; it was one of my faves last year. I too didn't agree with a lot of things Truly did but there was just something about her character that drew you in and didn't let go. The author made you care about her. I'm glad you liked it too.

Luanne said...

I agree - it was hard to believe it was a first novel!

Alyce said...

I'm so glad that you liked this one! It is one of my favorites so far this year.

Literary Feline said...

I was holding my breath as I began your review, afraid you were going to tell me you were disappointed. I am glad it exceeded your high expectations. I've been wanting to read this one for awhile now. Great review, Anna!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I know exactly what you mean about high expectations and I'm thrilled that this one worked out for you. It was one of my favorite reads of last year and I've kind of been disappointed that I haven't seen it around the blogosphere like I hoped I would.

avisannschild said...

Glad to hear this book exceeded your expectations! I love it too! I do think that you tell us a bit too much of the story though.

Anna said...

Serena: You definitely should read this one. I bet you'd like it.

Bermudaonion: I hope you like it, too. Just forget what everyone's said about the book and let the story take you away. :)

Ti: Everyday I see a dozen more books I'd love to read. I wish I didn't have to sleep because I'd get more reading done.

Julie: Glad you enjoyed it, too!

Sher: I hope you get a chance to read it soon. It's worth it.

Dawn: I was worried because of all the great reviews, but as soon as I started the book, I knew it was going to be good.

Staci: Once your stack is tamed a bit, you definitely should pick it up.

S. Krishna: Hope you get a chance to read it soon.

Janel: I can't wait to hear what you think of it.

Toni: Thanks! Glad to hear you enjoyed it, too.

Tara: Thanks for the link.

Corinne: It's definitely on my list of faves.

Dar: Seems like we had similar feelings about the book. I think it's great when an author makes you like a character even though the things they do are nothing you'd ever consider.

Luanne: I can't wait to read her next one.

Alyce: Mine, too!

Literary Feline: Thanks!

Trish: I've seen it on several blogs, but the more the merrier.

Avisannschild: I've added the spoiler alerts, but you already knew that. :) Thanks for your input.

avisannschild said...

Thanks again for adding the spoiler alert!

Anna said...

Avisannschild: No problem!