Andorra Kelsey has always been an oddity because of her size. At 7’11 and over 320 pounds, her height has terrified those who haven’t met her. After meeting an agent who wants to bring her to Hollywood, Andorra might just become a star. Set to play Anna Swan, a PT. Barnum wonder and giantess, Andorra leaves behind her father and children to escape the memory of her dead husband and to change being stared at for her height to being stared at for other reasons.
The Thunder of Giants alternates the stories of Andorra Kelsey and Anna Swan to the point that it is often hard to tell who is being discussed until the time period is mentioned. The characters are intentionally similar, down to their strength and frustrations with being kept in the small world they have been offered. Andorra is named for the land where she was born and was a child born of disgrace. Anna was born in Nova Scotia a few years before the American Civil War and thus finds herself growing up with Gavin Clarke, a man who goes to war in the Americas and becomes an oddity himself when his arm is removed.
Joel Fishbane’s prose flows beautifully between the two stories and his descriptions bring Anna and Andorra to life. Though both women are born under extraordinary circumstances, women will understand the dual nature of their lives. Both Anna and Andorra strive to be something bigger, something greater than the label they have been given. Despite their sizes, they also still struggle against the small cage of womanhood during both the Civil War era and the early days of Hollywood.
The Thunder of Giants is a beautiful work of modern fiction, but it should be mentioned that Anna Swan was in fact a real giantess during the days of PT Barnum. She died of tuburculosis just before her 42nd birthday. I appreciate that Joel Fishbane has done his best to let her remain a human being and treat her characterization with respect in this novel.
The Thunder of Giants is available April 14th, 2015 from St. Martin’s Press.