A few years ago now, I got a book-a-day calendar for Christmas. I dutifully saved the books that sounded particularly interesting and made a list. While I haven’t made it through many of them, I am thankful that calendar introduced me to several books I don’t think I would have stumbled upon otherwise (I loved Brom’s The Child Thief and have yet to come across it in any book store). I know that I’ve seen Tiffany Baker’s The Little Giant of Aberdeen County on shelves in Barnes & Noble and it’s probably one that I would have picked up to examine more closely. Then I would have returned it to its shelf. As it is, I added it to my e-reader’s wish list and snapped it up when I found it had dropped to what I considered an irresistible price (for the record, just about anything $5 or less qualifies). It wasn’t a terrible book, but it wasn’t as good as that little calendar of mine made it out to be.
Even before she’s born, Truly is larger than life and in every way the opposite of what her pretty, petite, perfect (and beloved) older sister, Serena Jane, appears to be. Truly’s size is something that makes her both a fixture of the small town of Aberdeen but also keeps her from feeling like she really belongs. There are two families in town whose histories date back to the Civil War. Truly serves as a bridge between these distinctly different pillars of the community while she struggles to come to grips with her uncooperative body and years of bullying and derision from various townsfolk.
There is nothing glaringly wrong with the novel. The plot plods along at a steady pace. The narrative, told entirely in the past tense from Truly’s perspective, is engaging enough. I might not have given as much information about the novel’s later events as early in the novel as Baker does (especially when it’s information the narrator admits she didn’t have at the time). It would give the novel’s concluding chapters more of a kick but would also likely make it feel more like a Lifetime or Hallmark movie than it already does.
And maybe that’s what I find most disappointing about the book. It’s comprised of a lot of tried and true plot devices and characters to the point where they feel flat, despite the time and effort that goes into their development. I don’t care much for the narrator who complains, starts to do something to change the situation, but then back tracks. The supporting characters from the sister, Serena Jane, to Truly’s closest friends growing up (the awkward and quiet Amelia and fact-spewing Vietnam veteran Marcus) are there but it doesn’t feel like they do much except exist. Truly’s primary adversary, her brother-in-law Robert Morgan, is the only one who sticks out but he’s presented as having no redeeming qualities (or at least none that Truly will concede to the reader).
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is perfect for readers who enjoy a lot of chick lit or who always find their way to Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. But it wasn’t as great as my book-a-day desk calendar led me to believe.