The Giant's House The Giant’s House

Elizabeth McCracken

The Giant’s House

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Many of the short stories in Elizabeth McCracken’s HERE’S YOUR HAT WHAT’S YOUR HURRY (1993) contain characters so abnormal that they are seen in circus sideshows. However, the author’s focus is on the response of ordinary people to their encounters with the extraordinary. The subject of McCracken’s first novel is the same, but the approach is different. THE GIANT’S HOUSE is appropriately subtitled “A Romance.” Not only is it a story of romantic love, but it is also the kind of fiction which, freed from the demands of realism, can reveal a higher truth.

The title character of THE GIANT’S HOUSE is James Carlson Sweatt, a young boy with an endocrine disorder that causes exceptional growth and in time will kill him, but the real protagonist is the narrator, Peggy Cort, a young, unmarried, small town librarian. At first Peggy sees James as the ideal patron, an intellectually curious person who always returns books on time. However, she soon realizes that he is much like her, for they are both social pariahs, rejected by a community of unimaginative conformists. From the gentle giant, Peggy learns to forgive her neighbors. She also learns the meaning of love. James becomes the center of her life. She raises funds to get a special house built for him, cares for him there, even takes him to New York. Unfortunately, when James tries to consummate their relationship, his body fails him. After his death, however, Peggy does become pregnant, has a baby she presents as James’s child, and devotes the rest of her life to perpetuating the memory of her hero. THE GIANT’S HOUSE is a warm, compelling, and convincing story of the transforming power of love.

Sources for Further Study

American Libraries. XXVII, August, 1996, p. 15.

Booklist. XCII, May 15, 1996, p. 1569.

Boston Globe. July 14, 1996, p. B33.

Library Journal. CXXI, July, 1996, p. 165.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 15, 1996, p. 6.

The New York Times Book Review. CI, July 7, 1996, p. 8.

The New Yorker. LXXII, July 29, 1996, p. 74.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, May 6, 1996, p. 66.

San Francisco Chronicle. July 14, 1996, p. REV 5.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVI, November 10, 1996, p. 6.