The Little Giant of Aberdeen County – Book Review

littlegiant My father stepped back and examined me. Whereas Serena Jane possessed the limbs and features of a vain little pixie, my physiognomy brought to mind the heaviest and roundest of objects – a cannonball, perhaps. Something impervious to smashes and collisions. Since I began walking at the unprecedented age of seven months, I had fallen down the stairs twice, plunged unharmed into the flower beds from the front porch, and survived being pushed into oncoming traffic by Serena Jane in our rusted red wagon. – from The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, page 32 –

Truly Plaice’s birth brings out the betting folks of Aberdeen County who wonder how large a baby must be to stretch a mother to such huge proportions. But Truly’s birth is also marked by the death of her mother and the beginning of her father’s descent into alcoholism. Her size seems all the more incredulous when she stands next to her beautiful and petite sister Serena Jane. When the girls’ father dies, Serena Jane is taken in by a wealthy couple and Truly is dropped off at the deteriorating farm of a local family. From this point on, Truly can not help but view herself as less worthy than her sister whose beauty seems to enchant the people of Aberdeen County and attracts Bob Bob Morgan’s attentions. All is not what it seems on the surface, however. As Truly grows more enormous and matures from a young girl into a woman, she must rethink the idea of beauty and come to terms with the pain and anger of her size. Redemption for Truly lies in a series of moral decisions and her ability to forgive those who have wounded her the most.

Tiffany Baker’s debut novel is set in the fictional, rural town of Aberdeen – a place where time seems to stand still.

Its sidewalks had weedy cracks that gaped bigger every winter. The bells at the firehouse sometimes locked when the weather was damp, and the newspaper had quit printing its Saturday edition. There was a recreational softball team, a ladies’ gardening committee, and a brick library, but the team ever won, the collective age of the gardening committee was four hundred and seven, and the print in half the books in the library was so faded and smeared, it was no longer legible. – from The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, page 49 –

The characters who people Aberdeen are quirky, flawed and carry secrets passed from one generation to the next. The novel’s protagonist (Truly) is not wholly likable and yet the reader feels compelled to hear her story and understand her. Baker asks the most basic of questions in her novel: What defines who we become? How important is appearance when we determine a person’s beauty? Can forgiveness redeem us?

Baker captures the essence of small town life – the gossip, the secrets, the relationships and expectations which define each person’s role within the constraints of a community.

The novel is not without its weaknesses – at times situations seem contrived or unbelievable (such as the complete lack of investigation into the disappearance of Serena Jane, and the extent of the cruelty toward a very young Truly). Despite these faults, Baker’s writing is infused with a dark humor and deep insight into what motivates her characters. And it is these qualities which keeps the reader turning the pages.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is not a light read – it is disturbing at times – and some readers may be dismayed at the moral decisions of the protagonist. But for those readers who enjoy character driven books which take them to a new level of understanding, this one is worth the read.


Other reviews of this book:

Sherri at Bookopolis
Shana at Literarily
Tracee at the Book Czar
Tara at Books and Cooks
Marie at Boston Bibliophile
Trish at Trish’s Reading Nook
Lisa at Books on the Brain
Callista at SMS Book Reviews
Michelle at 1 More Chapter
Avisannschild at She Reads and Reads
Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea
Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages

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    • Darlene on February 6, 2009 at 11:20

    I really enjoyed this book. I liked the darkness of the novel I guess and yes while Truly did a lot of things I wouldn’t have done she still tugged at my heart. I’d read more by this author for sure.

    • Teddy on February 6, 2009 at 13:04

    I am looking forward to reading this book. Thanks for your wonderful review!

    I added the link to the ARC Challenge post. It is the first book that I have down for you for the challenge, do you have others I missed? Also, I think I am going to add another level to the challenge called, “The Overachievers” for this level you would commit to another 12 books for a total of 24.

    • Diane on February 6, 2009 at 13:24

    Great Review;

    I LOVED this book and the dark writing style, but then I LOVED Tomato Girl as well. I guess I attributed the extent of the cruelty young Trudy experienced as not too out of the norm based on standards in the 50’s?

  1. Great review! I recently reviews this book (and have now linked to your review).

    Oh and in case any of your readers are interested, I’m currently giving away three copies of the book here (deadline is February 16).

  2. Sorry about screwing up that first link! My review is here. (Hope it works this time!)

  3. I only skimmed your review, as I have a copy of the book in my stacks. One of my good friends said it reminded him a bit of A Prayer For Owen Meany (one of my favorites!). Not sure when I’ll get to it, as I have so many others I want to read first. Sigh.

    • Wendy on February 6, 2009 at 18:26

    Darlene: Glad to see you liked the book – I added a link to your review 🙂

    Teddy: Oh, I will most likely be an overachiever *laughs* I went back and gave you the link to Firmin which I read in December for this challenge.

    Diane: I enjoyed Tomato Girl as well…I updated my post and included a link to your review 🙂

    Avisannschild: I added your link 🙂

    Les: I will look forward to hearing your thoughts. I am not sure I’d compare this to A Prayer for Owen Meany which I have on my must reads list…Baker is a good writer, but I wouldn’t compare her to Irving (yet!).

  4. The cover alone makes me want to read this book. I really enjoyed your blog and I look forward to reading this book sometime in the future.

  5. Thanks for including me in your list!

  6. I only skimmed your review because this is the next book on my TBR stack. I read a early review of this on BookBrowse and was able to get on the waiting list at the library early. I’m really looking forward to starting this as soon as I finish In The Woods.

    • Wendy on February 8, 2009 at 13:04

    Staci: I like the cover too 🙂 Glad you enjoy my blog – and thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    Avisannschild: You are quite welcome!

    Suzi: In the Woods is on my list to read this month – I’ve heard really good things about it.

    • Isabel on February 8, 2009 at 17:00

    I need to check out this book! Thanks for the review.

  7. I want to read this book, but I’ve had some mixed feelings. Thanks for the review!

  8. Wendy: In the Woods is awesome!! and I’m enjoying Little Giant so far (she’s just started school).

    • Wendy on February 11, 2009 at 08:45

    Isabel: You are quite welcome 🙂

    S. Krishna: I will be VERY interested to read your review of this one!

    Suzi: Okay, you’ve sold me…I need to pick up the book SOON! Glad to hear you are enjoying the Little Giant 🙂

    • Anna on February 16, 2009 at 12:04

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it. I’ll be reading this one soon.

  9. My husband stole this book off of the pile and he LOVED it. Which is saying a lot. He’s not much of a reader. Now I need to read it.

    • Wendy on February 18, 2009 at 08:30

    Anna: I will look forward to you thoughts on it!

    Natasha: *laughs* That is a good story 🙂

  10. I have this one in the TBR pile, sounds like a good read, particularly Baker’s ability to capture small town life.

    • Wendy on February 19, 2009 at 07:50

    Serena: *nods* She does that very well – it was one of the strengths of the book, I think.

    • Linda in Maine on March 3, 2009 at 16:22

    Wendy, your review put me in mind of The Used World by Haven Kimmel; have you read that?

    • Wendy on March 3, 2009 at 16:54

    Linda: I have not read any books by Kimmel. Would you recommend them?

    • Linda in Maine on March 3, 2009 at 19:34

    I first read The Used World and found it quirky but absolutely wonderful; I recommend it. Then I read Iodine and for me, that one didn’t work so well. Next, working backward, I guess, the second of her memoirs, She Got Up Off the Couch; that showcased Kimmel’s writing beautifully.

    Do give The Used World a try, I think you might enjoy it a lot!

    • Wendy on March 7, 2009 at 11:18

    Linda: I will pop over to Amazon and add The Used World to my wish list. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

  11. Just posted my review (yes, I’m behind the times here!) and have to say I wasn’t wowed by this book. 3/5 (OK) rating. Meh?

    • Wendy on May 7, 2012 at 20:38

    I’ll be over to check out your review, Les. This wasn’t my favorite read either…although I think maybe I liked it a little better than you!

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