Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Big Girl, Small Town is the story of Majella, a woman with a predictable life that other people find odd, and how a family death shakes up her routine. Majella lives with her alcoholic mother in the same small town in Northern Ireland that she’s always lived in. She works in the chip shop, doesn’t like small talk, and knows her daily routine. Other people seem to think her grandmother’s recent death should have more of an impact on her, but Majella doesn’t see any change in her life, until it turns out her grandmother had a will nobody knew about.

The novel covers a week in Majella’s life, the minute details and the long list of things she dislikes, and uses timestamps and dialect to give a real picture of her reality. The Northern Ireland setting—from her father’s disappearance during the Troubles to the language used in the book—is vital to the novel and gives an insight into the very real kind of world that is fictionalised in the novel. The narrative isn’t so much about major plot points happening as how events have a day to day impact and even big things can become part of the everyday. 

This is a novel that may sound like a lot of books centred around an unusual protagonist whose everyday routine is thrown off, but the setting and facts of Majella’s life make it something different, and a look at being classed odd in a town that has a kind of ‘normal’ that a lot of people would think is odd in itself. Majella is a memorable character who will likely stick with readers after the final pages.