Monday, December 7, 2020

Big Girl, Small Town

  Big Girl, Small Town
Author:  Michelle Gallen
Publication Information:  John Murray. 2020. 352 pages.
ISBN:  1529304202 / 978-1529304206

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Majella kept a list of stuff in her heat that she wasn't keen on."

Favorite Quote:  "She liked things straight. But things weren't like that in Aghybogey. It was a town in which there was nowhere to hide, so people hid stuff in plain sight."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Majella is twenty-seven years old from a small town in Northern Ireland. She lives with her mother, who is an alcoholic. She works as a fast food restaurant with Marty, a married man with whom she sometimes has intimate physical encounters. Her father disappeared. Her brother died when a bomb he was trying to set accidentally went off. Her grandmother has been murdered. Majella is a "big" girl, and a big point is made about this in the book. "Majella had never left Aghybogey ... She'd never gone further than Bundoran on holiday. She was now a Bogey face, someone people expected to see around the town."

The book description makes it clear that this is Majella's story. At the same time, there is a hint that this book touches upon the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, the history remains very much at the periphery of this book, which focuses on Majella's day to day routine. This routine does not vary much. She wears the same cloths, does the same things, eats the same food, and watches the same shows day in and day out.

Unfortunately, Majella is a character I do not engage with and her story is not one I care to follow on for many reasons.

Majella as a character does not change or develop much until the very end, and even that epiphany is not really explained or developed. As such, the book takes on a repetitive tone of who orders what at the restaurant, many of Majella's bodily functions, and such mundane things. The book does not really have a plot so character development would be the key to the story.

Some of the descriptions in the book are graphic and off-putting in the language used and the picture they paint. For example, "Majella knew he was watching her are. The thought of it made her want to twitch her arse checks to take the piss. It also gave her a tingle in her cunt." Eeewww!

Northern Ireland has a dialect and language all its own. It can be musical to listen to. This book, however, tells the entire story in this dialect phonetically written. "What canna get chew?" is a line that repeats often as Majella is a restaurant worker. I assume it translates to, "What can I get you?" The writing gets in the way of the reading. Knowing the setting, I would likely hear the lilt in the voices as I read even if the writing was correct English. I don't need to literally see it in writing. It makes the reading challenging and off-putting. My guess is that this book may be a considerably different experience as an audiobook.

The book description touts the humor in the book. Unfortunately, the humor escapes me. I end the book sad for Majella and glad to walk away from the way in which her story is told.

Many articles on this book indicate that Majella's character is on the autism spectrum, which would explain the repetitive routines. I am delighted to see books start to emerge that focus on differently abled characters. Unfortunately, this connection is never made clear in the book itself and does not compensate for the other off-putting aspects of this story. Sadly, I was completely not the reader for this book.

About the Book

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 during the Troubles. She lives a quiet life caring for her alcoholic mother, working in the local chip shop, and 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 seemingly mundane 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.


About the Author

Michelle Gallen was born in County Tyrone in the mid 1970s and grew up during the Troubles a few miles from the border between what she was told was the "‘Free" State and the "United" Kingdom. She studied English literature at Trinity College Dublin and won several prestigious prizes as a young writer. Following a devastating brain injury in her midtwenties, she co-founded three award-winning companies and won international recognition for digital innovation. She now lives in Dublin with her husband and kids.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment