The delicately-drawn portrait of an unlikely, fragile family comprising English war bride Elspeth, Canadian postman James and their giant daughter Ruth.
Compassion radiates from Canadian novelist and memoirist den Hartog’s (The Occupied Garden, 2009, etc.) third work of fiction, a novella that considers what it is that makes an individual special. James Brennan, traumatized by his World War II experiences, meets Elspeth—whose parents and brother all died in the conflict—in an English hat shop and falls in love. Married and settled in a Canadian mill town, the couple delights in their first and only child, Ruth, but the baby develops at an abnormal rate, outgrowing first her clothes, later the house, yet Elspeth resists James’ suggestion that they seek a second medical opinion. So Ruth, getting endlessly bigger, grows up lonely, mocked at school, desperate for friendship, until unreliable Suzy moves in next door and Ruth discovers the joy of companionship. When a family bereavement calls Elspeth back to England, James goes off the rails and Ruth, treated unkindly by Suzy, ends up in the hospital, where her condition is finally diagnosed.
Innocent and dreamy, combining fairy tale and true giants in history, den Hartog’s simple story offers a sweetly insightful mix of anguish and tenderness.