Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First off, I enjoyed this book immensely, not because it was a “page-turner” in the traditional sense, or that it was an incredible and extraordinary story, but because it was absolutely ordinary, sometimes crass and graphic, and 100% real.
Another in the long line of books I’ve read this year set in Ireland, I was taken from the usual scenic landscapes or busy cities to a small, gritty town with a tense past. Beginning with a tragedy, the story follows Majella through her everyday routine and interactions, specifying her likes and dislikes outright. I was absolutely thrilled that despite her less than “fit” physique or being classically attractive, Majella is comfortable in her own skin, confident in her abilities, and content in her unremarkable life. She’s honest and loyal without gushing and responsible without ambition.
I like to describe these types of books as being more about the journey than the destination. Focusing on relationships and engagements, recalling significant events and memories, and reveling in the tasks at hand, this brand of storytelling takes talent and finesse to be successful. Gallen has proven that she knows how to capture the reader’s attention with the perfect blend of commonplace and introspection. Taking a walk in Majella’s shoes and experiencing her life firsthand allows the reader to get a sense of what it’s like to live in post-conflict Northern Ireland with its unique trials and adversity.
It would be remiss for me to not warn the reader about the challenge of reading this book on an empty stomach. Descriptions in this book are so vivid and detailed that I craved fish and chips throughout the entire story and ended up making them upon finishing the book. They were delicious and I devoured them as quickly as I devoured this novel.
Thank you Algonquin Books and Michelle Gallen for an advanced copy of this book. The opinions are my own.
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