Read advance reader review of Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

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Big Girl, Small Town

by Michelle Gallen

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen X
Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen
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There are currently 24 member reviews
for Big Girl, Small Town
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  • Nelda Brangwin
    The audio version is best
    I am including both the audio and the written book in the review, because the audiobook made a real difference in my enjoyment of the story. Majella O’Neill is a young woman who lives in Aghbogy, a fictional town in Northern Ireland. She is autistic which makes living with her alcoholic, slovenly mother a challenge. Working in a local chip shop, she has no other plans for her future. Working in a shop where she is privy to all the gossip might be the dream of some small-town girls but Majella doesn’t like gossip or small talk. Told only from Majella’s point of view, she often thinks about “The Troubles” which took both her father and uncle. She is also dealing with the death of her Grandmother. It is a book in which nothing much happens, so it’s probably like real life for most of us. I got bogged down in the written book with the local dialect. I did not pick up any of the dark humor when reading, but in the audio version Nicola Coughlan’s voice brings life to the story. By the end of the audio version, I really felt I know Majella and knew that her autism was only a small part of who she is.
  • Elizabeth K. (Dallas, TX)
    A Kind of Anti-Heroine
    The main character, Majella, leads a rich interior life...but to the outside world, a very dull one. The book's style reminded me a little of James Joyce - no quotes for conversation, much interior thought process, a kind of gossipy, small-town feel to the characters. Majella has a distinctive voice and I found myself empathizing with her difficult life, even though I could not admire her. There was growth and change towards the end of the book - I might have given it a "very good" rating if the change had emerged from within, rather than being triggered by an exterior event. One warning - if swear words and amoral conduct in a story are offensive, this may not be the right book for you. But I'm glad I read it, and I'd be interested in reading this author's next work.
  • Milda S. (Warwick, NY)
    An Ordinary Life
    Michelle Gallen's Big Girl Small Town, a novel, is a fictional depiction of Majella O'Neill's life in a quiet Irish town in the aftermath of the Troubles. We see Majella as a good person but overwhelmed at the load she has to carry. It is a story told with compassion that makes you laugh and cry.

    Majella grew up during the Troubles and remembers those days that led to the disappearance of her father. Her grandmother and her father were the only people who loved and guided Majella. It seems that Majella O'Neill is doomed to lead a life of servitude to her alcoholic mother and the Chip shop.

    Majella accepts her life, until grandma's will gifts her with all of grandma's land and possessions, opening the door to new possibilities.
  • Ashleigh P. (Springfield, VA)
    A quirky and gritty walk in someone else's shoes
    Big Girl, Small Town is a quirky, raw, believable and humorous story that takes place in a small Northern Ireland town during the Troubles. The main character, Majella, is a surprisingly lovable protagonist after you sift (or trudge) through the crude grit of her painfully honest and unique personality. The author, Michelle Gallen, finds a way to draw you into Majella's exceedingly boring routine of living in squalor with her alcoholic mother and working at a grease pit of a chip shop. You will find yourself drawn like a moth to the flame to Majella's painfully sad and mundane life formed on a shaky foundation of abuse, neglect, poverty and addiction. Once you get into the swing of reading in a phonetic Irish diction, the story oozes ahead and you won't be able to put it down.
  • Barbara C. (Riverside, CA)
    I feel conflicted!
    Darkly hilarious? Engaging and satisfying? I found this book to be challenging. Majella would be someone I would probably not engage with in real life. She is certainly randy most of the time. Sex with anyone, anytime. Being of Irish heritage, some of vocabulary was comprehensible but much of it was hard to read. The detail was daft. I suppose many people enjoyed knowing what each customer ordered and ate. Me not so much. Having been to Ireland, this book gave me darker information regarding "the troubles". Another perspective is always welcome. I am glad I felt obligated to finish the book. The ending gave me more respect for Majella. Hope it works out.
  • Mary G. (North Royalton, OH)
    Our first impression of Majella O'Neill comes through her long list of what she's not keen on and a short list of things that do meet her approval. My lists are reversed in length. I did not care for the foul language and casual sex. I was tempted to drop the book but I'm glad I stuck with it. I am glad I took the time to become acquainted with Majella. I recognized the quiet person trying to find a world she will be comfortable in, indeed, trying to find a way to be comfortable in her own skin. She's a kind person stuck in a small town and still grappling with results of the Irish conflicts. In the end, one can feel hope for Majella and maybe even all the other quiet and lost souls in our world.
  • Lesley F. (San Diego, CA)
    A Wee Touch o' th' Irish
    An astounding story from Northern Ireland after the Troubles have recently ended. A wee touch of the feelings surrounding a not-American problem. 400 years of Catholic - Protestant difficulties should show Americans another kind of prejudice long ingrained in a culture. A touching story of one woman in a very small town. A disappeared dad, a murdered uncle and now grandmother, an alcoholic mother - sounds awful but perhaps less unusual than the average book club member might think. This book is particularly interesting because it is told completely from the inner thoughts of the protagonist. She has no one to talk with nor to share a life with - and so she talks with herself. Making lists and thinking little of most of the people she knows or knows about. Her thoughts - a warning - are not only in the vernacular but will be considered gross by many. Her northern Irish accent is brilliant and adds immeasurably to her story. The Guardian says that this is "a darkly hilarious novel" and our leading lady "a filthy, funny, clever companion". I agree wholeheartedly and, like others who enjoyed it, really - amazingly - would love to read a sequel.


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