After the election, desperate to mute the news that had become the soundtrack of my life, the torment only a reader knows struck. Despite the many books teetering on my to-be-read pile, I couldn’t fall in love with a new book. History teaches the cure lies behind us; thus I searched my shelves, seeking a book out of the limelight but still in my heart.
I opened THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY with trepidation, praying it would again transport me. Being a dedicated member of the first-line club, I held my breath and read the opening words in the prologue:
The day I laid Robert Morgan to rest was remarkable for two reasons. First, even though it was August, the sky overhead was rough and cold as a January lake; and second it was the day I started to shrink.
And that’s how you draw me in: with a juicy “what if,” an engaging antithesis, and a remarkable day of death.
This novel lives in the tragedies and miracles of body, while raising the fleshly concerns far above the corporeal. Truly Plaice, the gargantuan ugly duckling of Aberdeen, and her sister, Serena, the fabled beauty, are orphaned early, children of a hidden town in upstate New York. Both suffer under the beauty spectrums by which women are measured. Plagued by their extremes, they become invisible as real women, disallowed by all but a few of the townspeople to be considered actual living souls.
Fairy tales are magical, and twisted tales are macabre—author Tiffany Baker offers significant quantities of both, adding huge dollops of what Stephen King calls the “gotta know,” all perfectly leavened with redemptive heart. As an added bonus to great storytelling, Baker weaves apt and unusual turns of phrase, describing the bloat of pregnancy thusly: By midsummer, her wrists and ankles sloshed with fluid.
Great books ask and answer mesmerizing questions, beg one to ignore sleep, and then add something special: for this Baker provided a miraculous first-person-while-also-omniscient narrator. Immediately I wanted to write a book as simultaneously otherworldly and grounded.
Love, potions, and questions of surrender abound in thrall to an overarching heart-wringer: How close to a happily-ever-after can be managed when the hero isn’t the princess sister but in fact the ungainly fat one? The “gotta know.”
Truly Plaice, so unique and yet every woman, owned me. My happiness or sorrow became tied to her every move as I lived my life in servitude to discovering how she’d finish her too-often sorrowful journey as THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY.
For this addicted reader, no more able to fall asleep without a book than wake without coffee, always longing to meld with a character, Baker’s novel embodied the perfection of a great read. She enraptured me, rescued me from the dreaded doldrums of desperately seeking literary escape, and made me want to be a better person.