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'Little Giant' hugely entertaining

Anyone who has ever felt like an outcast will identify with Truly Plaice, the title character of Tiffany Baker's new novel, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County.

You know despair when you see it. And you were looking straight at it.

The child was on the edge of the playground, all by herself. From the way she was kicking the dirt and from the angle of her head, you knew she was one of those kids who endures teasing and ostracism from classmates.

It was heartbreaking -- even more so, if it happened to you.

From the moment she was born, Truly Plaice was destined to be cast aside. In the new book The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker, Truly is largely invisible.

For generations, there has been a Dr. Robert Morgan in the little town of Aberdeen.

Legend has it that the first was a Civil War deserter who showed up because he heard a witch was healing people. They say the first Robert Morgan married that witch, who wrote her spells down and promptly retired from her herbs to raise the next Dr. Robert Morgan.

Therefore, a Dr. Robert Morgan brought Truly into the world just as he ushered her mother out. Truly's father blamed Robert Morgan for his wife's death, even though Truly's mother was hiding a fist-size tumor in her breast before the delivery and besides, there wasn't much the doctor could do about a 14-plus-pound baby.

And Truly grew. In school, she was always bigger than the other kids, even the oldest ones. Her drab, tent-like wardrobe was homemade or from the boys' department, so that it would fit a child of her size. The teacher, Miss Priscilla Sparrow, was quite unkind and so were the other children.

It didn't help any that Serena Jane, Truly's older sister, was the prettiest girl in the world.

But that was okay. Truly found family and comfort when her overwhelmed father left her at the bedraggled Dyerson farm. Amelia Dyerson was like a sister, and August Dyerson taught the girls to play poker. Truly was truly happy.

But it wouldn't last. Bob Bob, the latest of the Dr. Robert Morgans, married Serena Jane but when she disappeared, he demanded that Truly move into town to care for him and his son. Cruelly, he made it hard to say no. But when Truly finds a surprise solution to a town mystery, she knows she's found an escape from her big dilemma.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County reminded me a lot of a Twilight-Zone-ish television show: It's a dark, quirky, sometimes-comic, sometimes-tragic story where strange people wander in and out and odd plot twists throw you off, just when you think you see what's next.

I liked this book for author Tiffany Baker's main character, but more because of the peripheral townspeople. It's kind of fun to watch the nasty characters get paid back for their badness, and I liked how the decent characters became gently complicated, despite their goodness.

If your book group is in search of their next novel, or if you want something to escape into, here's one to try. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is hugely entertaining.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of the Detroit Lakes Newspapers book review column, "The Bookworm Sez." Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,000 books.