In her debut novel, Irish author Michelle Gallen introduces the world to the quirky Majella O’Neill. Big Girl, Small Town, which will be released in the U.S. on December 1st, is unique in its depiction of life in a small Irish town.
Majella is happiest out of the spotlight, away from her neighbors’ stares and the gossips of the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up just after the Troubles. She lives a quiet life caring for her alcoholic mother, working in the local chip shop, watching the regular customers come and go. She wears the same clothes each day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, microwaved at home after her shift ends), and binge-watches old DVDs of the same show (Dallas, best show on TV) from the comfort of her bed. But underneath Majella’s seemingly ordinary life are the facts that she doesn’t know where her father is and that every person in her town has been changed by the lingering divide between Protestants and Catholics. When Majella’s predictable existence is upended by the death of her granny, she comes to realize there may be more to life than the gossips of Aghybogey, the pub, and the chip shop. In fact, there just may be a whole big world outside her small town.
This book is very reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Normal People. Majella is quirky and weird in her own way and offers a unique perspective to the world around her (which isn’t all that big). This novel conveys that quintessential small town vibe where everyone knows everyone and gossip runs rampant. Majella is unlike any other narrator and you can’t help but want the best for her.
The only thing about this book is it’s very character-centric. It’s very narrowed to Majella’s thoughts and views, so if you’re looking for a plot-driven novel or a good mix of plot and character development, you might not find it here. There is also a lot of Irish slang and wording used in this book that I was unfamiliar with. I actually had to look up certain terms, so fair warning to my fellow non-Irish readers.
If you’re looking for a book to put you in someone else’s shoes or view life from a different perspective, then you will love this book. Fans of Sally Rooney will love this literary fiction debut and find Majella’s quirks and rules about life bizarre yet charming.
*I received an ARC from Algonquin Books in exchange for my honest opinion.
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!