Cover Image: Big Girl, Small Town

Big Girl, Small Town

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Member Reviews

I got an ARC of this audiobook.

I saw that this was an Irish humor voiced by someone from Derry Girls and that was all I needed. If you want a wild ride, watch the show.

The narrator is pretty much perfect for this book. The way that she is able to make Majella’s mom so obnoxiously annoying is amazing. I just can’t stand her mom at all. The way she is constantly yelling Majella’s name just grates on my nerves. It was a great detail. Nicole Coughlan was a great choice. She is able to do thick Irish accents to a more subtle accent as needed. It was clear when there was dialogue and it was delivered with a wit that had me laughing, even when I was missing half the joke due to the slang that just has not made it to my American mind yet.

The book is one of those meandering slice of life sorts of books. It has a lot of details of duvets, fish, and just general family life. It was fascinating to watch Majella’s world expand and how she could handle it. At times she would notice small things and other times she would be a bit shocked by things. Nothing was too mundane for Majella to mention, but the things she noticed were fascinating. The way she reacted to social situations and stress made me read her as autistic. She often flicked her fingers and she thrived on schedule. I am not sure if she was intended to be neurodiverse, but it was nice to see her as such. A lot of other reviews mention that she is autistic so I am probably not reading too deeply into it. It was great to see an autistic character that had a job and had a life. So often autistic characters are relegated as background characters or challenges for the MC.

The book was often crude with its humor, but in a way that was actually fitting. Dog shit jokes are not ones that I normally find funny, but the way they were delivered and timed was pretty wonderful. I am surprised at how often I enjoyed the weird sausage jokes, despite knowing how cringe they were. Majella also knows they are cringe and gets annoyed at having to tell the same joke over and over again. It was so cool to see how drastically different she interacted with people she knew the rules for and new people. The difference between her interacting with her boss and the sales clerk for the duvet was so clear and felt so close to home.

I didn’t really care that there was a plot. I just wanted to hear about every single day and interaction that Majella had. My only complaint was listening to this book at work got me a few weird looks. Nothing like someone talking about “fish cunts” to get someone’s attention I guess.
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It took me a little bit to get into the groove of this story since theirs Irish slang and the reader is Irish. There is a scene that is a bit intense but overall, I really liked this story, especially the dark humor. I really liked that this story took place in just one week and the character development in that week was really cool to see. Also, I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyones business, so I could relate at some points. Either way, this felt like a mini series.
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First of all this book is certainly not for the faint hearted or easily offended. But if you're neither of the above this book will definitely give you a giggle.

I adored this character study of Majella and all the little mundanities of her life. The book is full of situations we can all see ourselves in at some point and some we hope we never do. I was constantly bursting out laughing or wincing and grimacing in disgust, either way this book got a reaction throughout.

The book also gives a little insight into the everyday lives of people living on the border during and after the troubles without overloading you with a lot historical detail. 

I listened to the audiobook version of the book, voiced by Derry Girls actress, Nicola Coughlan. Honestly, I think Nicola's melodic accent added so much and really sold Majella's character. At times it was a little screechy but bearable and probably appropriate. 

Overall, I fell in love with Majella and her little quirks and would really recommend this to anyone looking for a giggle.
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Contemporary read that reminds me of growing up in my own small town. Would recommend for aged up teen fans of John Green. The protagonist's interactions with the world around her result in darkly comedic situations, while others feel poorly constructed and out of place. The narrator, while a melodic accent, was a little too strong for my liking and made the story hard to follow and understand. I think this could have been a 4 star read if I had the physical book. Overall would recommend!

*thanks to the publisher and netgalley for supplying to audiobook in exchange for a fair review"
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Thank you to Algonquin and for my advanced reader copy.

Big Girl, Small Town is a character driven novel that highlights a week in the life of 27 year-old, Majella O'Neill. Majella lives in the tiny town of Aghybogey in Northern Ireland. Her life revolves around working at A Salt and Battered (love the name of this restaurant), taking care of her alcoholic mother, and her weekly trips to the pub. At first glance Majella's life is pretty boring. She is a creature of habit and doesn't like to stray from her routine.
Majella's father disappeared when she was 11 years old and her life has been overshadowed by the turmoil between the Catholics and Protestants. Between her mother's alcoholism and her grandmother's sudden death, Majella is just trying to keep her routine going.
I started Big Girl, Small Town by listening to the audiobook. I switched back and forth between the audio and physical. I am really glad I went that route. The audio put the accent in my head for reading. Reading the physical copy really helped to bring the dialogue to life. The third person narration is written in Irish English (Hiberno-English) with the dialogue being slang and more phonetic. There were quite a few slang terms that I had to figure out and look up.
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Trigger Warning: There is one particularly gruesome scene half way through the book, I had to skip forward a few pages. 

At times, Majella's interactions with the world around her result in darkly comedic situations, while others fall flat and leave the reader befuddled. She gave me Ignatius J. Reilly vibes, but this book is no A Confederacy of Dunces. In a book meant to highlight the mundanities of everyday life, I found myself wondering when it would be over. I kept hoping for a murder mystery type twist with her missing father, but no avail. While this book was not for me, some absolutely love it, so it may be worth checking out. Derry Girls' Nicola Coughlan, as the narrator for the audiobook, was the highlight for me. 

Synopsis: Majella O'Neill is one of the most unique female protagonists written to date. Starting each day with a list of likes and a longer list of dislikes, she details everyday life in post "troubles" North Ireland. While seemingly noticing everything, yet reacting to nothing, Majella struggles to make bonds with those around her. With a blown up uncle, dead grandmother, missing father, and hapless mother, she lives a fairly solitary life working at the local fish shop at night, and sleeping all day.
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I listened to an audio copy of Big Girl, Small Town by the courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

Big Girl, Small Town has a lot going for it. Sharp, fun-to-hear main POV, interesting setting, full characterization. What I didn't get from the story is involvement by the main character. It seems like a few little things happen to Majella and she's carried along by these events to an end point that could have been the same for anyone. 

Nicola Coughlan did a fantastic job narrating. I often zone out on slow, monotone audiobooks, but I was able to pay attention with her narration. 

I'd recommend this to people who love character studies and subtle stories. This is not big-in-your-face action or a showcase of extreme personalities. The positive of the ending happening anyone is that it's an anyone's story. That makes Big Girl, Small Town and Majella lovingly relatable.
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Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallin
Narrated by: Nicola Coughlan
Publication Date: December 1, 2020 - Out Today!
Description from NetGalley...
“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, 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 videotapes 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.”
Thank you to @NetGalley @workmanaudio for the audiobook ARC in return for my honest review.
My thoughts...
One of my best reads for 2020. The content was shocking, but as the book progressed, I realized this was unique. The narrator was great. I had to get used to the Irish accent, slangs and euphemisms but the flow of the narration just took me right along. With impactful description of a small Northern Ireland town with its bittersweet and hard-knock lives, I was rooting for Magella. A woman in her late twenties, her behaviours and thoughts peaked psychological interests. She displayed autistic behaviours, signs of depression and showed some developmental delay. Both historical fiction and current events, Magella was our eyes to the social issues in her town due to the Troubles and its impact. We saw Magella’s tough, gritty, violent, and heartbreaking life and of those around her. This was dark, humorous and sad. But Magella was a captivating, real and unlikely heroine. 🚨Trigger Warning, Graphic Scenes and Mature/Adult content.
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I simply adored this funny, heartfelt and relatable coming-of age book. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Gail Honeyman.

Big Girl, Small Town was so, so special to me. This is partly because I absolutely devoured the writing style: funny, emotional and attentive to detail you normally don't pay attention to. But I also loved it because the subject matter is actually very relatable and important. The novel takes place in a Northern Irish town and follows Majella. She makes do with daily life, working at a chip shop, taking it day by day, quite closed-in though enjoying little things. The beautiful writing really puts forth these qualities, which fans of Eleanor Oliphant like myself will absolutely adore.

But also like Eleanor, yet in a very unique way, Majella's life has been very difficult. The story begins with the news that her Granny has been brutally murdered at her home. The crime makes Majella the focus of local life, even though she always minds her own business. And so we learn more about her difficult life: her father had disappeared, her mother is alcoholic, she's always been bullied - as in fact she is autistic.

This book is truly special and unique. The style is phenomenal. I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook version of it, which is absolutely delightful with the appropriate accent and audible emotions.

*Thank you to the Publisher for a free advance copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
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Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I found it a bit slow.  The main character is compelling and likeable, even if it is often in a pitiable way.  The description of the book likened it to Derry Girls, which I think is a strange comparison.  While there was some humor in this book, albeit awkward humor, I would not classify this story as a comedy at all.  It's more of a coming of middle age story about a woman who learns to accept her life as it is.  I liked it, but it was not what I expected.  The narrator speaks with a thick Northern Irish accent, which is totally appropriate, but did take a bit to settle into.
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I'm sorry to say I just could not get into this auto book. The narrator was good but the story wasn't for me. It felt a little depressing and wasn't a good fit for me.
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What can I say? This book is marvelous! I loved Majella! Huge 5 stars, from the beginning, to end I wasn't able to stop, I'm so glad to have read it because I learned a a lot about this girl, her daily routines made my days, she's smart, funny and interesting! I'd love to read more about her.
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I loved reading the book so much that I downloaded the audiobook so I could "read" it again - this time with an authentic Irish voice instead of the one in my head. Nicola Coughlan is the perfect voice for this.
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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.
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