This misfit story (290 pages) was published in July of 1997 by Avon Books. The book takes you to 1950s Cape Cod. Melissa read The Giant's House and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
This novel is a quiet heartbreaker, a beautifully wrought story of unusual people with an odd relationship that can only end one way, no matter how fervently we wish otherwise.
Peggy Cort is the 26-year-old unmarried librarian in a small town in Cape Cod. And because it’s 1950, her single status labels her a spinster — left behind and unloved. Until she meets James.
At 6-feet, he’s an ‘over-tall’ 11-year-old boy with a condition that eventually makes him grow to well over eight feet. But to Peggy, he’s just a boy with qualities she instantly recognizes: a safe escape into books, the still wariness of an outsider, the wistfulness of a dreamer who believes dreams might not come true.
And so begins an extraordinary affair of the heart.
Our narrator Peggy has a remarkable voice: tender and self-deprecating, lacerating herself and humanity with equal sharpness. She’s not a soft woman — the world won’t allow her to be — yet she tries to connect and fails in spectacular fashion. ‘I felt in those days quite set apart from the rest of the human race, who regularly got what they wanted and complained anyhow.’
The descriptions of the library are luscious and capture the spirit of possibility that we inhale every time we take a book from the shelf. There’s comfort in the order of catalog: ‘[O]rdinal, cardinal, alphabetical, alphanumerical, geographical, by subject, by color, by shape, by size. Something logical that people — one hopes — cannot botch, although they will.’
Peggy’s singular outlook will make you laugh wryly along with her as often as it makes your eyes sting with tears. James’ humanity — and moments of striving to be more and less than a giant — stings like saltwater on a scraped knee.
This is a powerful examination of love and loneliness with just enough whimsy to make it a pleasurable journey. The odd couple of Peggy and James will stay with you long after you turn the last page of this fractured fairy tale about a giant and his not-princess.
The idea of a library full of books, the books full of knowledge, fills me with fear and love and courage and endless wonder. I knew I would be a librarian in college as a student assistant at a reference desk, watching those lovely people at work. ‘I don’t think there’s such a book—’ a patron would begin, and then the librarian would hand it to them, that very book. — Elizabeth McCracken
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