Debut novelist Baker attempts a contemporary fable about an epically proportioned young woman searching for love and acceptance in her upstate New York hometown.
After her mother dies giving birth to her, Truly Plaice grows up with petite sister Serena Jane under their father’s care until his death when Truly is 12. The snobbish minister’s wife takes in conventionally pretty Serena, while freakishly large Truly ends up on the Dyersons’ hardscrabble farm. She finds a friend in Amelia Dyerson, whose poverty and learning disabilities make her an outsider like Truly, and in Marcus Thompson, another misfit because he’s so smart. Popular Serena seems the lucky one, until doctor’s son Bob Bob date rapes and impregnates her. They marry and head to Buffalo where they remain for eight years while Bob Bob morphs into Dr. Robert Morgan IV. Shortly after their return to Aberdeen with seven-year-old Bobbie, Serena runs off. Robert and Amelia are called to identify her dead body in a nearby town. Truly, growing larger by the day, agrees to move in with Robert to help raise sweetly effeminate Bobbie. It’s a pituitary gland problem that’s causing Truly’s perpetual enlargement, declares Robert, who begins secretly treating her. Meanwhile she comes across a quilt into which Robert’s great-great-grandmother stitched herbal, perhaps magical cures not long after the Civil War. Soon Truly is concocting her own brews and facing life-or-death choices, as the remedies can both cure and kill. Despite a few missteps, she finds ultimate redemption, complete with weight loss and marriage. It is probably no coincidence that Aberdeen County has a Celtic ring, since despite a few contemporary reference points (Vietnam, gays) it has an out-of-time, Brigadoon atmosphere.
Readers with a soft spot for lovable, saintly freaks may overlook the simplistic characterizations and manufactured plot.