Reviews

Big Girl, Small Town, by Michelle Gallen

littleghostbooks's review

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slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

2.0

Slice of life fiction. Not a lot of action or conflict. Not a lot of plot momentum. Very difficult to get into. 

keeley's review

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emotional mysterious sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.5

gweiswasser's review against another edition

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4.0

Full review at: http://www.everydayiwritethebookblog.com/2020/12/big-girl-small-town-by-michelle-gallen/

Big Girl, Small Town, by Irish author Michelle Gallen was pitched to me as a “bleakly and uproariously funny” book about a young woman living in Northern Ireland with a dead-end job in a fish-and-chips takeout restaurant, a newly-murdered grandmother, an alcoholic mother and a missing father. She’s also most likely autistic. Uproariously funny? Um, no. But still a worthwhile read.

Majella O’Neill grew up in the small Irish town of Aghybogey. An only child, she lives with her mother, but her father disappeared several years before after the murder of his brother during the Troubles. Her mother is an alcoholic who drinks herself to sleep every night while Majella works the night shift at the Salt n’ Battered shop, serving a parade of regulars and looking forward to climbing into bed with her dinner in the wee hours and watching DVDs of Dallas. When the book opens, Majella’s grandmother has just been brutally murdered, attacked in her rural home, and the police are trying to find a suspect.

Majella’s life is one of routine and repetition, which brings her great comfort. She lists what she likes in the beginning of the book (cleaning, her father, her grandmother, eating, sex, painkillers) and what she doesn’t (small talk, physical contact, noise, sweating, make-up and jokes) and lives her life in pursuit of the former and avoiding the latter.

Big Girl, Small Town is a deeply sad book. Majella isn’t appreciated by those around her, despite the kindnesses she doles out to her customers and the stoic support she provides her mother. She has been abandoned by the one person she loved to be with and her life seems very small. Her inability to connect emotionally with others makes for a pretty lonely existence, and it’s clear that she has bottled years of grief without properly processing it.

So why should you read Big Girl, Small Town? First, it is a fantastically detailed portrait of this small Irish town and the people in it. Second, Gallen allows Majella to grow and change just enough during the week when the book takes place that you have hope for her by the end that her life will improve. You feel deep empathy for Majella as she goes about her day, cleaning up after her mother and the people who come into her shop, and small triumphs like her buying a new duvet cover or standing up for herself in a pub become quite rewarding for the reader.

I am glad I read Big Girl, Small Town. It wasn’t exactly a page-turner for me, especially given all the detail and the Irish vernacular, but it was a worthwhile and memorable read. If you especially enjoy books with Irish settings and/or characters like Eleanor Oliphant, give this one a try.

aimeedarsreads's review against another edition

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Majella O’Neill, a late-twenties, neurodiverse protagonist who grew up in the (fictional) Northern Ireland border town, Aghybogey, knows what she likes: reruns of

bnjreads's review against another edition

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3.0

emily_madcharo's review against another edition

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challenging reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

izzye1500's review against another edition

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reflective sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

enjoyed this one! a little gloomy, a little grimy, but overall a quiet, compelling story. extra points for nicola coughlin narrating ☺️☺️

livingalifethroughbooks's review

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reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.5

Disclaimer: I listened to this one on audio at 2X speed and while I can sometimes do books at 2.75X or 3X, I struggled with the Irish accent and while driving and the background noise, I was confused at times. Lucky for me the story moved so slow that I didn’t miss much. Or did I?  The time line jumped. Characters were annoying. I feel there are people who would love this type of diary narrative fiction but ultimately I was like, what just happened. Why was the end dissatisfying?  What did I miss?

bookish_sabrina's review

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dark funny medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

An endearing novel about Majella, a young woman who works in a chip shop. From the surface, she seems somewhat standoffish and bristly, but if you stick with her you see a woman overwhelmed by grief with no means of catharsis. Her mother is an alcoholic and Majella must do the emotional labor for the both of them. On top of that, Majella puts up with nightly harassment from customers at the chip shop. This novel is a journey about self-discovery on a very small scale. To the outside observer, the changes and risks Majella takes in this book seem inconsequential. However, by being in Majella's perspective, we see just how damn revolutionary buying a new comforter might actually be. I found Majella to be really endearing, funny, and crass. I wanted someone to help her so badly, but will have to settle for her hard-earned tiny triumphs. This isn't my typical novel, since it's really driven by the dry humor of the narrative voice, but I'm glad I stuck with it because I was rewarded with small glimpses of Majella's deeper feelings, which made her journey feel all the more impactful.

alonereed's review against another edition

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challenging dark reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.0