“Truly” is the narrator of this novel. Named by her mother in the delirium of a bad childbirth, the baby is large, and a girl. She will grow to be the tallest and largest female in the town of Aberdeen, New York. Her older sister, Sarena Jane, will become a delicate beauty, and although the paths of the sisters eventually diverge, they will stay connected throughout their lives.
Bad stuff is going to happen to these two, but also some good. Truly gets the worst of it, though, after her mother and then father die prematurely. She is shipped off to a nearby farm, a rough, cold place, but she makes a friend there. Amelia is a half mute wild child who is content to listen to Truly spin tales of princesses in imaginary lands. At school, they meets Marcus, a small yet very bright boy who tags along with them, mostly because he likes Truly. But she does not return his affection.
Years pass. There is something about a mysterious quilt, and the background of a doctor’s family, starting with the strange union of a doctor and a “healer” in the 1860’s. Truly slowly learns the healer’s secrets and experiments with local herbs and plants to make medicines, and this is where the book takes a gothic turn. Some of her potions can kill, and if a few of the terminally ill townsfolk have also been unkind to Truly, well…it is up to the reader to decide if it’s mercy or murder.
I enjoyed the inner voice of Truly as she observes the workings of her hometown and even seems to know things she isn’t supposed to know. A first person narrative should not be omniscient, but here, somehow, it works, blending with the other odd elements of this tale.
Watching these unusual characters find their place in the world through a series of twists and obstacles is the main satisfaction of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. Baker’s account of Truly’s adventures pulled me along, truly. I will be looking for more by this talented author.