Not long after his family moved from Memphis to rural Mississippi, young Harrison Scott Key began to notice how out of step he was with his surroundings. Willing to rise at 4 a.m. to accompany his father and brother on hunting trips, he nevertheless preferred to read, or bake, or simply not shoot things. With The World’s Largest Man for a parent, though, those options often took a backseat to a day spent in camouflage with gun at the ready.
Key’s memoir is frequently hilarious. His storytelling pulls no punches: Pop was physically abusive, somewhat racist and entirely sexist, and while Key is different in many ways, some of his father’s worst behaviors are handed down and threaten his own marriage. Yet this material is all fodder for stories that balance wit and gut-punch delivery. When a Thanksgiving dinner is blown off course by Pop’s ruminations on breastfeeding, Key muses, “If I’d had a gun, I would’ve just started shooting everyone, to save the world from us.”
Like Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, The World’s Largest Man is about a willful Southern father, a wife trying to eke out a little sanity for the family and the kids who nevertheless bear the scars of such an upbringing. And as was true with Lawson, Key continues to look for the familiar in his adult life. When his creepy neighbors in Savannah, Georgia, burn trash in the yard and tear out all the landscaping with a truck, his annoyance is clearly tempered with some nostalgia.
Both laugh-out-loud funny and observant about the ways we become our parents while asserting ourselves, The World’s Largest Man is a wise delight.