I don’t know how it sailed under my radar for the last few years, but I just read Tiffany Baker’s 2009 novel The Little Giant of Aberdeen County and it was one of the more enjoyable novels I’ve read in a long time. I’m not sure what I liked most about it, but I suspect it has something to do with the quirky characters and the found-family theme so prevalent in the stories of John Irving. There’s also the faintest whiff of magic realism, which has drawn comparisons to Alice Hoffmann, but I think it has less to do with magic realism and more with the bit of hocus pocus and revenge – personal favorites of mine – the author throws into the mix. In any case, it was a highly original story that made for interesting reading, a kind of American fairy tale with all the requisite characters: orphans (one a princess and the other an ugly duckling), a wolf, a witch, and a giant.
The giant in this case is Truly Plaice, the gargantuan narrator who starts her tale at the conclusion, standing at the grave of her nemesis: “Technically speaking,” she says, “I guess you could say I killed Robert Morgan, but I did it only because he insisted.” How the protagonist triumphs over the most powerful man in town is the secret gradually revealed in The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.
A fairy tale needs a good villain, and Baker supplies her wolf in the guise of Robert Morgan, the last in the line of country doctors, who pursues Truly’s sister Serena Jane (the princess) with lupine determination: “His eyes were shining yellow…his teeth and chin looked particularly pointy, giving him the semblance of a hairless wolf.” Although Morgan eventually marries Serena Jane, she leaves him, and Truly is coerced into moving in with Morgan to care for him and her nephew. But Truly does more than tend house. She goes in search of a spell book, which according to legend was used by Tabitha Morgan, a mysterious healer who married the first Robert Morgan during the Civil War. Gossip has it she was a witch who hid the book before dying, but nobody has been able to locate it. Many, including the Morgan doctors, insist the story is borne of nothing more than superstition, but Truly makes an interesting discovery one day. Can she unlock the secret of Tabitha’s magic in time to protect herself against the fate imposed upon her by her size?
In addition to topics of revenge and forgiveness, Tiffany Baker touches on other relevant themes when telling the story of Truly’s life, the theme of lasting love, for one, and how outward appearance can define a life, for another. But those are just a few of the subjects that recommend this novel. I hope you can read it for yourself and see why Truly Plaice is a character of truly remarkable proportions.
Title: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
Author: Tiffany Baker
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2009