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Summary

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award.

Stuff Majella knows

  • God doesn't punish men with baldness for wearing ladies' knickers
  • Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes
  • Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground  

Stuff Majella doesn't know

  • That she is autistic 
  • Why her ma drinks 
  • Where her da is  

Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn't like gossip and she isn't interested in knowing her neighbours' business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.   

Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend, and Majella thinks things are better that way.   

But Majella's safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies, and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella's one chance at escape. 

©2020 Michelle Gallen (P)2020 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

Critic reviews

"Milkman meets Derry Girls. A cracking read." (Sinead Moriarty)

"A thrillingly fresh, provocative and touching voice." (Marian Keyes)

"Bawdy yet beautiful, full of everyday tragedy, absurdity and truth. I grew extraordinarily attached to Majella." (Sara Baume)

What listeners say about Big Girl, Small Town

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A gripping story about an extra ordinary, ordinary girl

An amazing and original innocent voice, describing life of a family with a background of the troubles and their effect on ordinary people. The view point of an autistic girl and woman who is not a genius brings so much into sharp focus. As a book it would be described as a page turner in which the story is revealed not told and rises to a crescendo which made me stop using the sleep function because I just had to hear it to the end, while knowing I would be sad when I could no longer look forward to listening to it tomorrow.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

f***ing brilliant

Loved this story from start to finish. Gritty, relatable and deeply moving. love (and the lack of) and life with all the bullshit removed. the Irish vernacular was interesting and lovely to listen to. I found myself contemplating Majella often, alternately admiring then pitying her. Really fresh approach to a book, totally thought provoking and beautifully written. Defo recommend.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

What?

Terrible. No plot... No characters.... No conclusion. Im surprised this book was ever published

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Gave up on this

Sorry, but I found this book really heavy going. No story arc, no character development, just a rather dreary setting and a depressing group of people. Narration is fine, though the screechy mother was quite hard to listen to.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Brilliant

I couldn't stop listening. I became utterly fascinated by the lives of these characters and loved every moment and detail. Highly recommend. Beautifully narrated too, added to the sense of authentic storytelling.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Nothing really happens.

Hard to get into to start with and although it is well-written descriptively there isn’t much of a story as such behind it, so the ending is something of a disappointment. It’s fine as something to listen to while you’re doing other things, it’s not as funny as I was led to believe by other reviews, the narration was good and saved it from being completely dull and probably not able to finish.

1 person found this helpful

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Great story beautifully narrated

Really enjoyed this sbook. Great story, beautifully narrated. Was just sorry that it had to end!

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Brilliant!

I really enjoyed this book! It had fantastic narration and th characters were very realistic and well formed. I found myself becoming invested in the story and found it to be an excellent listen to relax to!

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

No Conclusion, very unsatisfying

This book although well written in its descriptions and preformed well by Nicola, left me feeling miffed and unsatisfied. No conclusion to either of the 2 'mysteries' in the story. Also didn't find it very funny. It's quite dark and depressing in places. Certainly not great if you want something light hearted or something with a satisfying end!

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

wait! what? did i miss something?

at first the language used irked me, but i decided to give it a chance, i needn't have read the book as its all there in the description. Repeated scenarios over and over again. i stayed the course however only to be disappointed and feel like i must have missed a giant chunk then to be faced with more mundane normality followed up by a strangely described and abrupt end that id hardly call a real ending. i needn't have stuck around. planning on returning!