[Note: This week The Divining Wand spotlights The Debutante Ball Class of 09 by featuring their original “Presentations,” along with subsequent professional recognition and/or personal rewards. With only two weeks left to watch them waltz around the Ballroom floor, let’s toast Debs Tiffany Baker, Meredith Cole, Eve Brown-Waite, Katie Alender and Kristina Riggle: Bravo for their debut offerings and cheers to their careers!]
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
“Baker’s bangup debut mixes the exuberant eccentricities of John Irving’s Garp, Anne Tyler’s relationship savvy and the plangent voice of Margaret Atwood…It’s got all the earmarks of a hit—infectious and lovable narrator, a dash of magic, an impressive sweep and a heartrending but not treacly family drama.– Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)
“Grabs you from its astonishing beginning to its riveting conclusion. Its charms are multitude– a wholly unique love story, a devastating friendship, a bewitching multi-generational history, all brought to an apex in the larger-than-life personage of Truly, a heroine simultaneously infused with a quiet and dignified grace and peculiar sense of purpose. This dark-yet-rolicking debut is a must-read.”–Sara Gruen, author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
“Read so fresh and unfolded in such surprising ways that I was captivated from start to finish. It’s a bracing, bright, masterful debut, and Tiffany Baker is a writer to watch.”–Joshilyn Jackson, author of THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING.
“A beautiful, startling and wholly original novel infused with magic, lush language, and surprises on every page. Tiffany Baker has given us a flawed, prickly, enchanting heroine in Truly–part Cinderella, part Witch, part Behemoth. In ther timeless story of small town life, the boundary between reality and fairy tale does not exist, and happy endings are possible but hard-won. This book is a treasure.”–Stephanie Kallos, author of BROKEN FOR YOU
With the beginning of the new year, The Debutante Ball Class of ’09 makes its bow and Deb Tiffany Baker leads off with the above glowing reviews. Although the novel, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, will officially be released this Thursday, January 8th, Amazon began its shipping December 23rd…thereby delivering some on Christmas Day.
However, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the same small town she grew up in, Deb Tiffany was likely unaware that her magical, mythical book was being opened along with other presents. Instead, she must have been enjoying the holiday excitement of her three young children, sneaking in a quick run, cooking, or dreaming about the beach. Oh, yes, she does all of that and more. In fact let’s meet this Debutante through her September 4, 2008 post, Girl Thursday:
“Hi everyone! I’m Tiffany, the Thursday deb, although in real life I’m nothing like a debutante. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband and three, young children, am prone to wearing Birkenstocks and cowboy boots, can’t curtsy, and believe that Lay’s plain potato chips and champagne is the perfect food pairing.
“Before becoming a novelist, and before getting married and having kids, I taught literature and writing at UC-Irvine and the Cooper Union. I have an MFA and a PhD in Victorian Literature, and my favorite book since the age of nine has been Jane Eyre, a character who wasn’t debutante material, either.
“I’m so thrilled to be participating in this group over the next year. In fact, the coming months will be filled with “firsts” for me. Yesterday my oldest daughter started Kindergarten (I cried; she didn’t). It will be the first time all three of my children are in school for at least part of the day, my first Christmas in a house we bought last year (and still have yet to fully unpack), my first time blogging, and, of course, the first time I’ve ever had a novel published!”
How well can you relate to Tiffany Baker? Quite easily and naturally, of course. The fact that she has a most vivid imagination, is a gifted literary storyteller and will likely mesmerize you with these talents in her debut novel are pure bonuses to your reader/author friendship. Still you might be wondering how this author manages to accomplish everything and in the The Writing Routine post of November 13, 2008, she confesses all.
And that’s how the book was written, beginning with the backstory or How I Came to Write the Book:
“People are always asking me how I came up with the idea for The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, and I always tell them the whole thing belongs to Truly. Truly is not “‘real'” of course—except that she kind of is. Before this version of the novel, there was another incarnation, one where the story belonged to the Morgan men. Well, Truly was having none of that. Her voice barreled in over the narrative, broke it into smithereens, and told me to pick up the pieces and start over, her way. I would, it seems, be telling the story from her perspective, with her words, whether I liked it or not. She has been a singular muse, to say the least—chatty, bossy, and stubborn as all get-out. But also forgiving, tender, and full of regret. In other words, totally human. People often ask if Truly is some version me, and of course, in a way she is. She is my answer to the question of why we die the way we do. I didn’t necessarily set out to write a book about that subject, but over the course of writing this novel, several friends and family members passed away—some from old age, some from disease, some, I guess, just because their number was up. Then I got pregnant in the middle of it all and almost miscarried my son. As I lay in bed wondering if I would be able to have him, I found myself asking the questions that Truly confronts at the end of the novel: When one of the needs in life turns out to be death is it murder or a mercy? Enter Truly—a kind of spirit-guide of mortality who brings these issues to the table, but who also is constantly reminding us that life is a feast. There’s more, of course, to writing a novel than just “‘tuning in'” to a character’s voice, but not much. Writing, I think, is as much an act of listening as anything else. Luckily, I chose to shut up and open my ears to Truly, even when I didn’t always like all the answers she was giving me, even when we sometimes fought. Finally, like Truly, I also spend a lot of time cooking, and I believe there are similarities between writing and the culinary arts. For instance, I don’t really think you can be a good cook if you don’t like to eat. You always need a secret ingredient. You should never give away your recipes, and most of all, in my opinion, whatever you’ve made always tastes best when it’s shared. Truly, I’m sure, would absolutely agree. I hope you enjoy The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.”
From Truly’s voice to Deb Tiffany’s writing, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County emerged, along with its Synopsis:
“When Truly Plaice—part Behemoth, part Witch, part Cinderella—is born larger than life into a small-minded town, her birth rocks the pillars of tiny Aberdeen, New York, and breaks her family into smithereens. Truly spends a painful childhood in the shadow of her older sister Serena’s beauty and is teased mercilessly for her enormous physique. But when Serena unexpectedly leaves her son in Truly’s care, she must become the woman of a house she did not choose. Her brother-in-law, Doctor Robert Morgan, was one of her childhood tormentors and, as an adult, subjects her to brutal criticism, cruel medical testing, and degradation to the breaking point. It’s only when Truly finds her calling helping townspeople with herbal remedies that she begins to regain control of her life. However, unearthed family secrets will lead to a devastating betrayal that will break the Morgan family apart forever, and as Truly reckons with her own demons, she must come to terms with her role in Aberdeen’s destiny and the possibility of love in unexpected places.”
While there’s so much to like about this unique novel with its complex characters and a bit of magical realism, it also deals with the physial and emotional pain of being “different.” And how does Deb Tiffany feel about differences? In her November 20, 2008 post, Sign of the Times, we (not surprisingly) learn that she embraces them. And that’s the real basis of Truly’s story. As unique and memorabe as this debut novel is, it’s personal tale may be even more meaningful. Simply put, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County allows us to look at our own life, the differences that surround us and the choices we make, while hoping that, in the end, we’ll be happy in our own skin.
Now do enjoy…Truly!
That was then (January 5, 2009) and this is now: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County has just been nominated for Book of the Year in the Fiction category for the NAIBA awards.
And the winner(s) of TETHERED by Amy MacKinnon are: Mary and Gaby! This Fairy Godmother simply didn’t have the heart to randomly choose only one entry from two choices. Besides, this novel is deserving of two winners. Please contact me at: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your snail mail address and the book will soon be on its way to you. Congratulations!