Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Here is what the publishers have to say:

When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly 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 femine 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.

My Thoughts
A riveting read that reads like a tall tale. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Full of humor this was the perfect book for a bit of lit reading. With a well developed cast of characters that completes this carefully crafted story. I will say that this book has the beginnings of a new classic.

Do you have a book club? Please feel free to grab the reading group guide.

1. Truly is the “little giant” of this book, yet her size seems to make her less, rather than more, visible to the town around her. Can you explain this phenomenon? What do you think the author is trying to say about her outsider status?

2. Serena Jane and Truly are as physically different as sisters can be, yet Truly sees that this difference is crucial, explaining “the reason the two of us were as opposite as sewage and spring water, I thought, was that pretty can’t exist without ugly.” (pp. 97-98) How would you describe Truly and Serena’s connection? How is it different from Truly’s relationship with Amelia Dyerson? Which seems the more genuine sisterhood to you?

3. As the successor to a long line of old-fashioned, small-town doctors, Robert Morgan is traditional, strict, and often cruel. I the end, however, the legacy terminates with him and he becomes Aberdeen’s last Dr. Morgan. How do he and Bobbie stray from the family paradigm? What Morgan characteristics stayed with each of them? Is the town “more modern” without a Dr. Morgan, and with Bobbie and Salvatore’s restaurant instead? Is the replacement of nurturing through nourishment rather than doctoring a symbolic replacement?

4. Death haunts Truly and all of Aberdeen, sometimes in unexpected ways. As a gardener, Marcus’s aim is to “make things live,” but, as Truly realizes, “wasn’t it also true that gardeners were always wrestling with death, whether in the form of drought, or blight, or hungry insects? In a garden, Marcus always said, death was the first, last and only fact of life.” What other parallels do you see in the ways Marcus and Truly court life and death?

5. Truly’s size marks her as an outcast, but throughout the novel, other characters have trouble “fitting in” in a more figurative way. Examine how this manifests in Bobbie, Marcus, Amelia, even Serena Jane. What larger point do you this the author might be trying to make about the importance of conforming?

6. What role does Aberdeen County play in the novel? Could the story or these characters exist elsewhere? Do the effects of the 60s and the Vietnam War seem to touch Aberdeen in the same way they touched the rest of the country? What is unique and what is not about Aberdeen as a setting?

7. When Amelia discovers how Priscilla Sparrow and Robert Morgan died, she asks Truly whether it was mercy or murder that killed them. What do you think? How do you feel about Truly’s actions? What in Truly’s character draws her to “collect souls” as she comes to call it?

8. When Marcus and Truly finally come together, Marcus says “We’re not exactly a match made in heaven, you and I, but I figure we’re good enough for here on earth” (p. 334) What does he mean by this? Do you agree?

9. Why doesn’t Robert Morgan “care” that his son runs away? What does it say about what he thinks of himself? How does this connect to Serena Jane’s leaving and his reaction to that event?

10. After Robert Morgan’s death, Truly gradually takes on some of his responsibilities as town doctor by using the knowledge she’s gained from Tabitha’s quilt. How is this a fitting purpose for Truly, and a fitting counterpoint to the legacy of Morgan doctors?

11. What about this story is larger than life or possesses elements of a tall tale or folklore? How are these details woven into the story? How is the book similar to or different from other works in this tradition?

I am giving away 3 copies thanks to Hachette Book Group.
Thanks Valerie Russo.



3 Winners will be announced on January 28, 2010



Tea said...

I would love to win and read this book.


My favorite Tall Tale is Sleeping Beauty. I like to imagine having all that time, 100 years, to become refreshed and rested. Then, being awakened by the perfect prince. Love romance.

StephTheBookworm said...

I'd love to win this book - I hear a lot about it. January 18th is the day after my birthday so what a good gift it would be if I won lol! My favorite tall tale would be James and The Giant Peach. It is really fun and cute.

Anisa Purdin said...

My favorite tall tell is Beauty and the Beast,because I think they got it wrong .the man is always a fluffy bunny when you meet him then he turns into the beast after you get to know him....

Suzanne Yester said...

Would love to win a copy of this! My favorite tale is The Tortoise and The Hare because it always reminds me to slow down and take it all in because eventually you'll make the end of the race if you just keep on going!

Thanks for hosting this!
quzy at mac dot com

Teri K said...

This book sounds very interesting. My favorite Tall Tales are about Paul Bunyan. I've loved his stories since I was a little girl.
Thanks for offering this giveaway.

Dixie said...

Stone Soup because it reminds me of the importance of sharing what I have.

Anonymous said...

My favourite piece of folklore or tale is that of Aesop's Fables... I love the tale of the Lion and the Thorn. I would love to win a copy as I've heard so many great things about this book! Please accept this as my entry. Thank you!

Aliya D.

Reading said...

I always loved Paul Bunyon and his ox Blue.

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

Unknown said...

My favorite tall tale is Alice in Wonderland.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

Marjorie/cenya2 said...

One of my favourite books as a child was
Little Women. Why, it was so believable.
This would be a great book to win.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com

mariag said...

I would love to read this book. My favourite tall tale is The Wizard of Oz.

fmlj94 at yahoo dot com

Misusedinnocence said...

I would love to read this. My favorite tall tale is Paul Bunyan. :)

bison61 said...

I'd pick Paul Bunyan as my favorite

tiramisu392 (at)

janetfaye said...

I have always liked Sleeping Beauty story.

janetfaye (at) gmail (dot) com

Jaime said...

The only one that pops in my head tonight is Johnny Apple Seed, I have told that one to my kids
copperllama at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

thanks for the opportunity to read this book...i have always enjoyed 'cinderella.' love the story and moral behind it.


FlyFreeMyBooks said...

Hard to pick on favorite anything, but how about some of the tall tales told of Calamity Jane, just because they showed a strong American woman.

Unknown said...

My favorite tall tale is james and the giant peach because I loved that book as a child

Anonymous said...

I always liked "Gulliver's Travels". The first time I read it I was amazed that those little tiny people could tie that huge giant up.

rubynreba said...

I always liked Jack and the Beanstalk.

Anita Yancey said...

My favorite is Alice In Wonderland. Please enter me. Thanks!


Michelle said...

I don't know why, but my favorite folkloric story has always been Johnny Appleseed. I think I just liked the idea that he went around planting trees!


Nancye said...

My favorite is: "Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett" because she is strong and independent! I love the Steven Kellogg childrens book! Very cool illustrations as well as a fun read (even for adults!)

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

"Alice in Wonderland" is my favorite. I found her story fascinating. This looks like such a great book- thanks for the opportunity.


spynaert said...

My fave is Paul Bunyan: The Giant Lumberjack because he possessed strength, speed, and skill that matched the vastness of North American.

Jonnie (JB) said...

I've always liked Rupunzel. I was amazed with her long hair as a child.