Tiffany Baker

"The Little Giant of Aberdeen County"

(Reviewed by Jana Perskie MAR 8, 2009)

"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."

When Truly Plaice was born in 1953, she certainly made a place for herself in the annals of Aberdeen County history. No one in this small New York village had ever seen, or even imagined, that an infant could be so large. Sadly, Truly's mother died giving birth to her "little" girl, whom everyone bet would be a boy, given the size of the pregnant woman's belly. What few people knew, was that Lily Plaice was destined to die young, Truly or no Truly. Dr. Robert Morgan IV had discovered a large lump in the woman's breast during her third trimester, so Lily's days were numbered. Thus, the newborn was left lacking sweet maternal care. She was to be eternally deprived of a Mom to sooth her in her differences, to dry her tears when kids made fun of her, and to give her unconditional love.

Now, Serena Jane, Truly's big sister, never lacks for love, maternal or otherwise. As unlike her sibling, as a sylph is to the broad side of a barn, she is petite, beautiful, and so like a princess from the fairy world, that she never lacks for anything. She is "perfect." Everyone is willing to take the precious Serena Jane into their homes and hearts. Meanwhile, Truly continues to grow at such an alarming rate, that by the age of one and a half, she outgrows her four year-old sister's clothes. And she continues to grow and grow and eat and eat. It is all Earl Plaice can do to keep his younger daughter in food and clothing, which has to be made special, usually out of khaki and brown cloth. Serena Jane, wears pastels, ruffles and lace.

Earl refuses to take Truly to see the only doctor in town, Dr. Robert Morgan IV, to discover what is wrong with her, as he still bares a grudge against the physician he believes negligently killed his wife. Much later in the novel, we learn that perhaps if the "little giant" had been treated earlier, her condition might have improved. She has what is known as acromegaly, a chronic disease marked by enlargement of the bones of the extremities, face, and jaw that is caused by over-activity of the pituitary gland.

Tragically, Earl dies of disappointment. Serena is taken in by the Reverend and Amanda Pickerton, who make her their own and provide her with a life of privilege. They want no part of Truly, who is sent to live with the impoverished and eccentric Dyersons on their farm at the edge of town. There she continues to grow but finds some emotional solace with this strange family. However, she has lost her mother and father, and now is separated from her sister. It is her dignity and inner grace which see her though bad times.

Now all this sounds like a terribly depressing story, but really, it is so much more fun than sad, especially if you are a fan of dark humor. Truly Plaice, our narrator, is a wonderfully endearing character with enough grit and self-deprecating humor to survive life's and love's limitations. She has two eccentric but dear friends, Marcus and Amelia, who, in their own right, are as different as Truly. And this threesome are certainly heads and shoulders, (pun??), above the rest of the town's folk in so many of the traits that really count.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County spans many years and is almost epic in its multi-generational history. The reader follows Truly's life, times and adventures. Subplots abound, as do laughs, tears, intrigue, lies and magic. There is the mysterious legacy of Tabitha Dyerson, a local healer - or witch - who married the very first Dr. Robert Morgan, a Civil War deserter. The town's infirm flocked to Tabitha, whose herbal remedies cured more patients than her husband's scientific medicines ever did. She was said to have left behind a "book of shadows," a witch's book, with recipes for all her potions. Although many looked, no one ever found it....yet. There are many enchanting and mystical moments within these pages, as well as some surprising twists in the storyline and a variety of characters worth getting to know.

This is Tiffany Baker's debut novel and she has done a fine job of writing with eloquence and maturity. Her primary theme is the importance of acceptance and inner beauty. I did find the pace to be a bit uneven at times. Ms. Baker's narrative begins with a bang and then slows considerably toward the middle of the novel. The pace does pick up again and the ending is justly rewarding. Recommended for fans of literary fiction.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 138 reviews

 



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About the Author:

Tiffany BakerTiffany Baker grew up in Tiburon, California. She has a graduate degree in creative writing from UC Irvine and a PhD in Victorian literature. Before children, she taught courses at the Cooper Union in Manhattan.

She says about her first novel, she "would write for a while, then put it down and have a baby, write some more and have another baby - it was kind of a long process."

She now lives in Tiburon, California, with her husband and three children.

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