Tiffany Baker's first novel, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, strikes the reader as both familiar and unique. Its small-town setting and quirky characters conjure up the writings of Fanny Flagg and John Irving. Baker's voice is distinctive, however, and the book contains more than a few surprises that will keep readers entertained from start to finish. The first-person narrative style strikes the perfect tone for the novel, and Baker's prose is insightful and descriptive.
"Sometimes I think I collect souls to make up for the ones I've lost over the course of my life the string of disappearances that started with my mother are spread outward like a crow's wing, darkening everything beneath it. Sometimes it's possible to see misfortune coming and prepare for it, I guess, but most of the time, when a person disappears, it's as unexpected and shocking as hail in the middle of June."
The book is populated almost exclusively with incredibly damaged individuals;
dysfunctional relationships abound. The residents of Aberdeen County heap so
much hurt and resentment upon each other that the reader may wonder if either
redemption or forgiveness is possible. The reader may also experience a bit of
frustration with the characters from time to time, as they seem unwilling to act
in their own best interests, content to remain mired in misery instead of
seeking to improve their situations. The author deftly manages the difficult
task of keeping this large cast of characters three-dimensional. She also does a
remarkable job of maintaining narrative balance, avoiding the temptation of
sinking into melodrama or sentimentality on the one hand, or slapstick humor on
Surprisingly, the author spends very little time on Truly's medical condition. While it's mentioned, and it's obvious that the disease influences how others react to her, many of the problems Truly experiences could just as easily have been the result of any number of common conditions. The character primarily comes across as a generic "ugly duckling." This makes her very easy to relate to, as readers will sympathize with the ostracism she experiences, if not with her specific ailment.
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, hence readers looking for a book with magical elements may be disappointed.
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.
About the Author
Don't miss Tiffany Baker's unique take on an author biography.
This review was originally published in January 2009, and has been updated for the January 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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