by Greg Rhyno
I hate it when I’m right. I mean, it feels fine being right in general sense, but, in the context of a book that tries to surprise you, it tends to bring things to an unsatisfying conclusion, especially when the twist is presented as though it should have shattered your world. But how can an author prevent this feeling in his readers? It’s tricky, definitely. As I at least briefly discussed previously, providing too much information can make the surprise apparent and unsatisfying, but not giving enough can make readers feel cheated when we get there. I think at least part of the answer lies in the confidence of the author and the amount he respects his readers’ capacity for understanding, which usually presents as an earth-shattering plot points delivered without ceremony. (Great examples of this can be found in Jane Urquhart’s The Night Stages and the two Kazuo Ishiguro books I’ve read.)
But I think I need to move on from this line of discussion, for Rhyno’s book is more than just a surprise near the end. In To Me You Seem Giant, we jump between two time periods as they relate to our narrator, Pete Curtis, in alternating chapters. Half the time, we’re with Pete in high school as he and his buddies, Michael (aka Deacon) and Jesse (aka Soda), try to make it big with their band, Giant Killer. In the other half, Pete tries to turn his ramshackle world into something resembling a normal life, working as a substitute high school teacher after his dreams failed to launch––at the old school he used to attend, no less.
And Rhyno makes the most of his time-hopping approach to his story. The separate plots walk hand-in-hand, with each chapter building upon the information the reader was given in the last, creating suspense and intrigue with the sudden switches and creating a cohesive whole in the book at the same time. And things build and develop in a satisfying way until Pete adds in a string of tangentially-related thoughts to the in-between––often about the town he hates––effectively killing our momentum. What strikes me as attempts to add comedy or depth to the narrative or, perhaps, to inject our narrator with personality greatly hurt the pacing in To Me You Seem Giant.
Even with this in mind, however, there’s still a lot to love in To Me You Seem Giant. It’s a story about the need to confront the demons of your past in order to move on. It’s bleak, yes, but touching and, ultimately, hopeful.