“Heartbreaking and exhilarating.”
Born to a postman and an English war bride, a young girl named Ruth begins to grow at an alarming rate. The doctor claims nothing is wrong, but she soars upwards, and is the size of an adult by kindergarten. Though ostracized and teased by the other children, she longs to be among them.
Ruth’s giant perspective gives her a bird’s eye view that conveys her profound capacity for empathy. She can see over place and time – back to the days before she was born, through to the lives of other giants, and even into the intimate thoughts of her mother and father.
Early on, her mysterious affliction causes difficulties in the family. Her mother Elspeth is cold and brittle, her father James kind but dangerously passive. Their daughter is both a connection and an obstacle between them, and also a product of war. Her rapid growth opens emotional fault-lines, yet it becomes apparent that Elspeth and James each have a deeper guilt they’ve carried with them since the war.
Still, the family holds itself together. But in Ruth’s teen years the bonds seem that much more precarious. James and Elspeth have grown further apart, and Ruth meets a girl named Suzy: “Something I’d been waiting for since the beginning of time, and also nothing I’d ever expected. She was the collision of those two things.”
While entirely fictional, The Girl Giant was inspired by real and legendary giants alike, and by images such as Diane Arbus’s “Jewish Giant at Home with his Parents in the Bronx” and John Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland, “opening out like the largest telescope that ever was.” Ruth’s own story is interwoven with retellings of The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body and the tale of the Cornish giant Bolster, who falls in love with a girl of normal size. The Victorian giantess Anna Swan and her Kentucky Giant make an appearance, in the wedding of the Tallest Couple of the World, and the Statue of Liberty, with her green copper skin and bones of iron, reveals a “massive, wonderful secret.” But ultimately, this is the story of Ruth, James, and Elspeth, as a family, and also as individuals, each with their own personal demons.
The Girl Giant was published in the U.S. by Simon and Schuster in 2012, and released previously in Canada by Freehand as And Me Among Them. It was nominated for the Trillium Award and won the Alberta Book Publishing Award for Trade Fiction.