The Giant's House (1996)

by Elizabeth McCracken

Readers go for romance — even when it's platonic and there isn't a happily ever after. That may explain why Elizabeth McCracken's first novel, The Giant's House, has many fans and was a Book of the Month Club selection.

The retrospective novel is narrated by Peggy Cort, a librarian who was 25 when an 11-year-old boy who was already as tall as a man came into her Cape Cod library. Peggy, an anti-social misfit, sensed in James Sweatt another lonely spirit. Peggy inserted herself into his life and stayed close by for the next nine years, until James's health severed their bond.

Granted, this unusual take on a love story is
intriguing, but it also can be seen as somewhat creepy, considering that James was a minor for the first seven years of their relationship and that Peggy forced herself on him and his family. Despite Peggy's obsession with James, she doesn't provide enough insight into his character to help readers understand what it was other than his medical condition of giantism that fascinated her. Or what about her, other than her devotion to him, James loved.

Commentators have noted that James was probably based on an actual character, Robert Wadlow of Alton, Illinois, who was 8 feet 11 inches tall when he died in 1940 at age 22.


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