Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken

"Despite popular theories, I believe people fall in love based not on good looks or fate but on knowledge. Either they are amazed by something a beloved knows that they themselves do not know; or they discover common rare knowledge; or they can supply knowledge to someone who's lacking" (10). 

Robert Pershing Wadlow (ca. 1940), the tallest person in history, by Vedia via Flickr

And now for a book that was so much fun to read. McCracken's 1996 (gee, I'm on a roll; next thing, I'll be listening to this, or preferably, this) National Book Award Finalist (and her first novel), The Giant's House, has been on my shelf all year and was highly recommended. 

It was a perfect camping trip readthought-provoking, bittersweet, with an ending that's totally satisfying and doesn't feel like a cop-out. The plot skates along, merrily almost, which is surprising because it's a sad story on the surface. 

We know early that James Sweatt, the eponymous giant, has diedbut Peggy Cort, the librarian who tells the story, is so motivated by love that we never veer into the territory of unmitigated tragedy. Smart, acerbic, closed-off Peggy manages to find a life through her relationship with James and his quirky Cape Cod family, and the only way she can do justice to his memory is to keep on living. 

Peggy's voice is one of the best parts of the novel. She's got lots of gems like the one above. She starts the novel with an affront"I do not love mankind"and from that line forward, I want to know what she'll say next. Also, of course, how a grown woman could fall in love with a teenage giant. McCracken succeeds in developing Peggy's point-of-view so flawlessly though, that it's not creepy in the least. 

I loved that this novel felt like an easy read, but made me think about the nature of love, too. It was interesting to note that in terms of plot and structure, McCracken follows the rules (at least the ones I've heard) and they work beautifully. Major plot turn on page 90 of a 300 page novel: it happens here, at exactly page 90. 


  1. I LOVE this book. I love all her books.

    1. Well, you were my most important high recommend-er! What should I read next?