Sarah's Reviews > The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
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's review
Apr 16, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009
Read in April, 2009

I really enjoyed this book, despite it being told in first-person, which is probably my least favorite perspective. The voice was very fresh, I thought. The narrator snagged me right from the beginning, and I kept reading because I was tugged along by that voice. It's a really promising debut from a first-time author. I would definitely read another book by Tiffany Baker.

I would have given this five stars, but the ending didn't sit quite right with me. The main character/narrator does some fairly terrible things in the course of the book, and I didn't think she was punished enough by the results of it.

There are SPOILERS!!! following, so reader beware.

In short: The main character, Truly, discovers the "grimoire" of a witch/herbalist/healer-woman who lived in the Truly's home during the American Civil War. The grimoire is actually a quilt that the witch-woman made before she died, to hide her secrets from her doctor husband. From the quilt, Truly learns about the healing properties of herbs that grow in the area, and gains a bit of a following in the community, echoing the witch-woman's life.

On the quilt-grimoire, there are these poisonous plants, and Truly can't figure out what their healing properties could be. And then she realizes that they don't have healing properties -- they're there so you know to stay away from them . . . or not.

Truly ends up brewing a poisonous tea to help a terminally ill woman shuffle off this mortal coil with some style. She makes three jars: one for the woman, and two to push into the back of the pantry. The woman commits (assisted?) suicide, and it's all very sad, but she was sick and old and time passes and people forget.

But then Truly's brother-in-law discovers he has terminal cancer, and Truly acts as nurse, and eventually he asks her to help him die, so she does, in a much more explicit way than she had previously. She all but pours the poison tea down his throat. It's been a while since I read this, but I believe she helps him lift the jar to his lips or wraps his hands around it, because he's too weak to do so.

So, he dies, time passes. Truly's nearly unrequited love comes back into town after being in Vietnam, and she and her one and only, BFF have a falling out because Truly thinks that she might be with this guy romantically and because the BFF knew that Truly's sister Serena Jane wasn't really dead, but in fact living on the other side of the country. (Truly's shit-heel of a BIL blackmailed the BFF so she wouldn't tell Truly, you see.) Now, Truly and the BFF are as close as sisters -- were, in fact, raised together as sisters -- and following this argument, Truly has basically disowned her.

So what does the BFF do?

She takes the remaining jar of poison tea from the pantry and drinks it. Died of a broken heart, if you ask me.

This should have been just shattering for Truly, right? Right? Her BFF/sister dying practically by Truly's own hand? Uh, no. Truly has distanced herself pretty far emotionally from her BFF by that point, and it seems like this tragedy just rolls off her back. I was expecting her to finally break down and just wail and ululate and rend her garment, but she doesn't. We get . . . nothing.

In the end, this three-time murderess ends up with her unrequited love, very requitedly, learns to love her ungainly body (because he loves it), and doesn't seem to be punished at all. I suppose you could say that her punishment came before her actions -- she was pretty much an object of pity in the town, if not ostracized. I was left with the feeling that death of the BFF removed the final obstacle between her and her love interest, though he was very upset with what Truly allowed to happen. Rightly so, in my opinion.

And that is why I did not give this book five stars.

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