Complex jewel of a novel as this one is, it's another that's difficult to describe without giving too much away. Its very complexity, on the other hand, may also be one of its flaws.
Truly was born huge, continuing to grow at an alarming rate throughout her life. She suffers, the doctor later finds, from a medical condition involving her pituitary gland. She becomes, in short (pun intended), a giant. Her older sister, Serena Jane, happens to be the town beauty – Truly's polar opposite.
A social outcast, Truly finds friendship with two other social misfits – the tiniest boy in school, Marcus, (who has a sort of crush on Truly) and a girl named Amelia who suffers from a serious speech impediment. Together they help each other through all the teasing in school and beyond, in this tiny community where everyone knows everyone else, and the "normal" people stick together.
After the deaths of both her parents Truly is farmed off (literally) to the Dyerson's, Amelia's family. Her sister, Serena Jane, raped by the son of the local doctor (who is destined to become a doctor himself – it's a family legacy), becomes pregnant and is forced to marry the vile "Bob Bob" Morgan, producing a son who's the next link in the family's heritage.
When her sister disappears one day – running away from the controlling, iron-fisted Robert - Truly moves into the house with the doctor and his son Bobbie. As their cook and maid, every year she continues to get more and more enormous, as well as being a curiosity for the doctor, who's itching to study like a laboratory animal.
Oh, and the doctor's heritage? The family line, going back centuries, includes a woman named Tabitha (Dyerson) Morgan, presumed to have been a witch, mixing potions while her husband conducted his practice. It's rumored Tabitha has left behind her "shadow book," containing all her knowledge – for all medicinal needs, including some that could be used for nefarious purposes.
Something tells me I should stop here, before the plot gets even more complicated. What I've given you so far is only a small taste of what's gone on in this book 'til this point. When I say it's complex, I'm not kidding. Yet, it's not so complex it loses the reader. Baker does such a superb job keeping the character voices and personalities separate, confusing them isn't a problem.
I loved the book until the last quarter, when all hell broke loose. Events unfurled that were just outside the range of believability, as Baker throws in resolution after resolution rapid-fire. After a more slowly-paced first three quarters, suddenly the book needed to be finished up, and NOW.
I can sort of see her point. There are so many lines intersecting, so much explaining and one major relationship that needs to be consummated with no impediments. However, there's such a rush to finish up the action in the last few chapters she races on so unrelentingly it's dizzying.
Still, not enough of a flaw to have diminished my love of the first three quarters. The skill of Baker's craft was just that impressive.
Lots of fun to read, the book requires suspending a little disbelief. Not so much as to become annoying, but just enough to inject a bit of the supernatural into the plot. Just a tiny bit.
Mind-blowing to realize this is a first novel. Can't wait to see what she produces next.
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 25, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0446194220
- ISBN-13: 978-0446194228
* I read my library's copy of this book.