When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how record-breakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of feminine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.
Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.
When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is compulsively readable and likely to garner a lot of popular attention. It's sure to find its way onto book club agendas, as its themes provide ample opportunities for discussion and its fast-moving plot will appeal to a wide variety of readers.
A note to those looking to find, or avoid, magical elements in the books they choose to read: Many reviews mention "magic" as a plot element in The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. This is a bit deceiving. Truly is inspired by a woman who was rumored to be a witch because she was so adept at healing with herbs, and this is where the supposed magic comes into the story; but there's no element of the fantastic. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Truly Plaice, the protagonist of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, is
referred to as a "giant" even as a child. It is not until mid-way through the
book that a physician provides the name of the disease that afflicts her:
Acromegaly comes from the Latin acron, for extremity, and megas,
meaning large. It was originally known as "Pierre Marie Disease" after the
French neurologist who first correlated the clinical and pathological findings
in 1886. The disease is rare, affecting about one in every 20,000 Americans.
The underlying cause is an over-secretion of growth hormone by the
pituitary gland. In 90% of acromegaly cases, this is due to a benign tumor on
the pituitary gland called a pituitary adenoma.
Symptoms progress very slowly (photographs of an untreated
patient over time), making the disease difficult to diagnose. Some of
its effects include:
Soft tissue swelling resulting in the enlargement of the hands, feet,
nose, lips and...
Heartbreakingly beautiful and inescapably human, ordinary and extraordinary people chart their own courses in life. In the aftermath of one tragic afternoon, they are all forced to look at themselves and face up to the observation that the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
A scathingly funny and moving book about dreams and reality, at once light on its feet and unwaveringly serious.
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