Giant of the Valley

Fiction - Drama
238 Pages
Reviewed on 05/27/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Nicholus Schroeder for Readers' Favorite

Giant of the Valley is a collection of two emotional short stories by Harry Groome. Giant of the Valley, the first story, is set in the Adirondack mountains of New York. Louis McCutchen, a former bigwig in business, moved to the remote county after losing his beloved wife in an accident. Big Louis was making progress in his recovery from his emotional scars, but as he grew older his deteriorating health coupled with dementia caused the void in his heart to resurface. His grief threatens to swallow him whole this time. His three daughters try their best to care for him but developments in Adirondack will soon complicate everyone’s way of life. The next tale, The Witness, takes place during the bloody Bosnian War of 1992 to 1995. Jusuf Kurtovic, a renowned concert pianist, resides near Sarajevo with his remaining family members. His only son was lost to the senseless bloodshed. Jusuf's daily life is nothing short of a living nightmare. Bullets pierce the quiet of the night and the deafening blasts of mortar shells block out the lively sounds of the day. Every time Jusuf leaves the house to seek provisions, he fears that he will return to a pile of bricks and dismembered corpses. How long can he endure this living hell? Two elderly men both face their hardships with their heads held high. How will their tales end?

These short stories were riveting and quite heart-rending. The author's decision to have two different kinds of pain in stark contrast to each other was excellent. The first story focused on emotional pain or the psyche, whilst the second predominantly featured physical pain. This book covered the full spectrum of torment and reading about the atrocities of the Bosnian War did pull at my heartstrings. Picking a favorite between the two is difficult. Normally I'd lean toward emotional battles, but Jusuf's story was very moving and sad as well. So, both were my favorite I guess? The occasional surprises that Harry Groome had in store were another reason I fell in love with this book. The characters in Giant of the Valley were solid and well-written. I found myself relating to multiple characters as a result. Readers that enjoy emotional stories will love this book. The descriptions during the Bosnian War story weren’t overly descriptive, so even sensitive readers should be able to appreciate that story.

K.C. Finn

Giant of the Valley is a work of fiction in the family drama and emotive writing subgenres and includes the novellas Giant of the Valley and The Witness. Both are suitable for the general reading audience and were penned by author Harry Groome. Both stories in the collection focus on grandfathers and their families struggling for survival. In the first, Big Louis was once a pillar in his community, but his guilt over his wife’s death and his growing dementia leave his family struggling to care for him, whilst in the second, Jusuf battles to keep his granddaughters safe from harm during the Bosnian War.

Focusing on the themes of legacy and sacrifice but taking those ideas in different directions immediately infuses this work with the heft of a double bill of drama. Either story could sustain a full novel, but author Harry Groome has instead used the energy and the word count to create two much more focused and impactful tales, each one quickly establishing a cast of characters and a solid emotional core before taking the audience on a heart-rending and emotional journey. Whilst one story focuses on being cared for and the other on caring for others, both find an important message to share about honestly reflecting on the life you’ve lived and reminding yourself of the battles you’ve won and the skirmishes you barely survived. Overall, Giant of the Valley is a gorgeous pair of novellas, each with stunning prose that leaps off the page and a stunning tale to tell about what we’re left with at the end of the great journey.

Pikasho Deka

Giant of the Valley by Harry Groome contains two short novellas about two elder statesmen navigating the challenges of old age in contrasting environments. In the first story, Giant of the Valley, seventy-nine-year-old Big Louis McCutchen, an influential figurehead in the close-knit hamlet of Levi Lamb, located in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, struggles to deal with the onset of dementia. Still plagued by guilt over the accidental death of his wife years ago, Big Louis firmly refuses to be put into a senior care nursing facility, much to the chagrin of his daughters, who have to deal with their struggles. The Witness follows seventy-one-year-old Jusuf Kurtovich, a concert pianist living in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. Having already lost his son, Jusuf seeks to protect his daughter-in-law and granddaughters from the Serbian forces.

Thematically rich and poignant, Giant of the Valley showcases the resilient nature of the human spirit that refuses to acknowledge the rigors of old age and continues to push humans to test their limits. Harry Groome tells two touching stories that will resonate with readers because of the universal themes of love, hope, family, sacrifice, and grief. Each story follows the life of a seventy-plus widower, but in completely different environments. While Big Louis struggles to relinquish the control he feels he has in his home, Jusuf navigates life in a besieged city facing starvation and death, and witnesses neighbors turn into strangers. I thoroughly enjoyed Giant of the Valley and recommend it to readers who love slice-of-life stories.