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The Girl Giant

The Girl Giant

A Novel

  • reading group guide
“Something good can come from even the most terrifying things. For eve y thing that is taken away, something else is given.”

Ruth Brennan is a giant, “a rare, organic blunder pressed into a dollhouse world,” as she calls herself. Growing up in a small town, where even an ordinary person can’t simply fade into the background, there is no hiding the fact that Ruth is different: she can see it in the eyes of everyone around her, even her own parents. James and Elspeth Brennan are emotionally at sea, struggling with the devastation wrought on their lives by World War II and with their unspoken terror that the daughter they love may, like so much else, one day be taken away from them. But fate works in strange ways, and Ruth finds that for all the things that go unsaid around her, she is nonetheless able to see deeply into the secret hearts of others—their past traumas, their present fears, and the people they might become, if only they have courage enough.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451656176 | 
  • June 2012
List Price $15.99
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Even after I have reached the pinnacle of my growth, I still find safety in my yellow room, a museum holding the souvenirs of my existence. My collections of pinecones and pressed leaves are here, as are the stacks of tattered comic books I’ve read a hundred times. There are miniature soldiers as well, salvaged from my father’s childhood and passed from him to me. Feet molded to tiny platforms, they wield weapons and bugles, and stand at attention as I rise up, up, pushing right through the roof to look down on the little world below.

I can see out, all the way to far-off lands, and I can see back, to... see more
Chapter 2

In the autumn of 1947, I weighed eight pounds, two ounces. Everything about me was normal, James had been told this, but he felt relieved that he could see it from the doorway, where he stood grinning foolishly with a spray of carnations in his hand. Elspeth held on to me, beaming and staring out the window. My milky, brand-new eyes followed, as if I was searching for someone out there. James inched forward and sat beside us, perched on the edge of the bed. When Elspeth turned toward him, he pressed his forehead to hers, so they formed a kind of temple over me, a position that looked like a promise from each side but was... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Girl Giant includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Kristen den Hartog. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Part coming of age story, part portrait of a marriage, The Girl Giant is set just after World War II and tells the story of Ruth—a young girl who quickly and inexplicably grows into a giant. An only child and an outcast among her peers, Ruth spends much of her time alone. But Ruth possesses an extraordinary gift: a mysterious insight into the inner lives of those around her, including her parents who struggle to protect their giantess daughter from the constant stares and whisperings of the world, while wrestling with the trauma of their own pasts. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, The Girl Giant explores the complexity of difference.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Early on in The Girl Giant Ruth says, “But something good can come from even the most terrifying things. For everything that is taken away, something else is given.” Do you agree? Discuss examples from the novel.

2. Is there something universal about Ruth’s isolatio see more

About the Author

Kristen den Hartog
Photograph by Jeff Winch

Kristen den Hartog

Kristen den Hartog is a novelist and memoir writer. Her previous novels are Water Wings, The Perpetual Ending, which was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award, and Origin of Haloes. The Occupied Garden: A Family Memoir of War-torn Holland was written with her sister, Tracy Kasaboski, and was a Toronto Globe and Mail Notable Book of 2008. She also writes a blog, Blog of Green Gables (, about her experiences reading children’s literature with her daughter. She lives in Toronto with her family.




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