Ruthie Knox’s Big Boy is an escape. Professor Amanda “Mandy” Sharp needs an escape. She suddenly became a single parent when her sister died, leaving behind a baby boy. Between her grief, new (not well paying) teaching job, and all consuming parental responsibilities, she’s lost herself. For an outlet she goes to a dating website and finds a man with 8 different dating profiles.
That’s when I found him. Viscount Curzon. In his profile picture, he wore a cravat and a monocle.
In another one, he was Benjamin Piatt Runkle, a Civil War soldier. Under Accomplishments, he’d typed, Survived the Battle of Shiloh. His picture was tinted sepia, like a daguerreotype.
The mystery man of many identities appeals to Mandy’s need for play and love of history. They start having monthly dates at the train museum after hours. He tells her a year and she finds a costume. They role play. She can be anyone she wants to be.
As her grief becomes more manageable and she finds herself again, she starts to want more from this man who only wants to disappear into characters.
Big Boy is about finding your way out of grief without directly centering grief. Mandy’s first person narrative skims like skipping stones across a lake of deep feelings and complexity. She shows us both how much she loves being her nephew’s parent and also how overwhelmed she is by single parenthood. Because we only get Mandy’s perspective, her lover remains an enigma until he chooses to reveal himself.
I loved this novella and it’s going onto my comfort reread list.