Published 20th February 2020 by John Murray.
Read March 2020.
Majella's life revolves around routine and this allows her to cope in the little world she has made for herself.
Shuttling between her job at the chip shop, being tucked up in her room watching Dallas, and the occasional night out at the pub, she does her best to ignore the parts of life she doesn't really understand - and keep a distance from her drunken mother as much as she can. Other people certainly find her strange, but she keeps herself to herself and finds her rituals comforting.
But change is coming Majella's way, whether she likes it or not. After her grandmother is attacked and dies, Majella begins to realise that she may be missing something and she may not be able to keep shutting in the upsetting parts of her life forever.
Is it time for this big girl to make her mark in this small town?
I love a book that throws you in at the deep end with it's use of language and this one certainly does that - forcing you to start out like a wean splashing around trying to stay afloat, but turning you into a true pro who can co-ordinate their oxters into a pretty convincing butterfly by the closing pages. I haven't enjoyed myself quite so much negotiating vernacular since Trainspotting! Good job, Michelle Gallen!
So, what is Big Girl, Small Town all about? Well imagine a lovechild between Anna Burn's Milkman and Derry Girls, and it will give you an idea. Majella, our lovely autistic hero, breaks down her days in terms of the lists of things she likes and dislikes about her life in the border town of Aghybogey - and the wisdom she has learned from repeat viewing of videos of Dallas.
She has learned that sometimes you have to respond to conversation, and with a few standard responses/shrugs she manages to get by - she is a dab hand at the "blank face" - but really she just wants to be left alone.
But change is coming for Majella, and maybe the time is right for her to have some of the things she has been missing? Time to escape? You go girl! And being along for the ride has been an absolute pleasure!
I am totally in love with this wonderful experience of a book, having found myself rooting for Majella from page one. It is hilarious at times, deeply emotional and often surprisingly profound. I am not ashamed to say that I did not want it to end and cried my eyes out when it inevitably did.
"WhatcanIgetchew?"... more Michelle Gallen, please!
From the cover of the book: