There no traditional action in Big Girl, Small Town. Yet, you are drawn into the book from page one. Michelle Gallen made me fall in love with a fictional character. She made me see myself in her. She made me want to root for this character who (on the surface) is not an overly likable person. Or at least, not at first.
You watch as Majella (our heroine) live her life. Or what passes for living in a Northern Ireland town after “The Troubles” have (supposedly) ended. Like so many before her and her peers currently, she is content to just get up, get dressed, shower, watch Dallas on DVD and go to work. Sunday, she goes to the pub and occasionally shags her coworker or a local guy. But after an event that changes Majella’s world, we start to see her become aware of things around her. Can she start to see there is more than what she has decided is happiness?
Most of the “big stuff” happens before the story starts: Majella’s father leaves the family, her Uncle Bobby has been killed, The Troubles happened, and her grandmother is murdered. Did I bury the lead? Not exactly, because it is not a murder mystery. What it is, is we the reader (or at least me) are left wondering when is Majella going to snap? Is she going to get pregnant and like so many others be a “good Catholic” and keep ‘em coming? Will she just keep drifting along? Each event, no matter how small or big, is another step to the finale. Buying a new blanket, cleaning up her mother after a night of drinking, listening to old taunts, remembering events of the past, even having a cigarette and drinking at the pub.
The only real issue I have with the book is that the language can be a tad unfamiliar to the American reader. Set in Northern Ireland by an Irish author, the dialect and slang of the area is used. Even the narration has a different flow to it. As this is “adult literature” the themes are mature (said coworker is married, the IRA actions, etc.) and words like fag for cigarette is used, a character is said to be “one of those gays” and so on. However, it just paints a picture of these people and world. And while it is not necessarily a pleasant one, it is realistic.
As I said, I fell in love with this world, these people; while not always liking them. It was a book that kept me wanting more. After reading an author description, I am wondering how much of Majella is Gallen. And when it was all said and done, I sat back and said, “Do I like that ending? Yes. No. Yes. No. Maybe. What the flying monkeys was that?”