When Truly Plaice’s mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother’s death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated–Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.
Serena Jane’s beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book–containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers–has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly’s biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.
When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly’s brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling–the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques–hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan’s family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly’s reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.
After reading the back of this book, I really wasn’t sure what to expect when reading it. This book centers around Truly Plaice. When Truly’s mother is pregnant, the whole town places bets as to how big the boy is going to be, and the guesses are high due to the enormous size of her belly. When Dr. Robert Morgan examines her, he notices a lump in her breast, a lump she keeps secret, even though it will kill her. When her water breaks and contractions start, Dr. Robert Morgan tries to help her through the delivery to the best of his ability, but the size of the baby proves to be too much. When he asks her what name she has chosen the last word she utters is Truly. Thus is the beginning of Truly’s existence.
Truly is destined to be miserable. Her sister Serena Jane is beautiful by anyone’s standards, and not only is Truly homely, she is enormous besides. Her father blames her and the doctor for the untimely death of his wife (even though she would have passed from cancer shortly after her birth) and refuses to seek medical attention for his daughter, even though it is obvious there is something wrong with her.
After the death of their father, the girls are separated. Serena Jane, who is treated as a princess by most of the town, but especially by Amanda Pickerston, is welcomed with open arms into their home. But there is no way they are going to take in something as homely and huge as Truly. Instead, truly is sent to the Dyerson farm, a home of outcasts where she is bound to fit in.
The girls continue to meet weekly, but grow apart even more…not that they were ever really close. They both fall into a pattern with their new families. And Truly continues to grow.
She does have a friend in Amelia, the daughter of the Dyerson’s, who becomes like a sister to her. She also catches the eye of Marcus, even if he is the smallest boy in the class, he is full of knowledge and love for Truly, something that get exploited by Bob Bob Morgan, the son of Doctor Morgan, and a boy destined to be the next town Doctor, a tradition that goes all the way back to his great-great-great-grandfather, and his wife Tabitha, who it was rumored was a witch. Bob Bob also has his eyes on Serena, and one night he finally gets her where he wants her, a union that prompts a swift marriage due to her unexpected pregnancy.
Serena and Bob Bob move away and Truly doesn’t hear from them for quite some time, with only the occasional letter and picture of her nephew Bobbie. So, when they move back to town she is hopeful that things will change. They don’t. That is until Bob Bob (who is now called Robert) comes to tell her that her sister has left and wants her to help him raise Bobbie.
This is the beginning of a fascinating relationship, and a story full of love and incredible deceit. I found the story to be excellent, and truly loved the way the author described the characters. I went through a full range of emotions while reading this, and although it had a happy ending, it was really bittersweet when you realize everything that led to it. Highly recommended!
Tiffany Baker lives in Tiburon, California with her husband and three children. This is her first novel.
Thanks so much to Miriam Parker, of The Hachette Book Group for sending me this ARC to review!