FICTION

Big Girl, Small Town

Algonquin. Dec. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781643750897. pap. $16.95. F
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DEBUT Majella O’Neill keeps a running list in her head of top 10 things she likes and dislikes. The dislikes list actually runs to a full 97 items, with subcategories, but she sometimes thinks it could be distilled to one item: other people. She lives in Aghybogey, a small village in Northern Ireland still feeling the effects of the Troubles. Working at the local chip shop, she regularly cleans up after her needy, alcoholic mother. Years have passed since the unexplained disappearance of Majella’s father, and her grandmother’s murder has just rattled the village. Majella finds comfort in her routines—wearing the same clothes, spending Sunday evenings at the pub, eating microwaved dinners from the chip shop while tucked into bed watching DVDs of Dallas, the greatest show ever—but is deeply shaken by the death of her grandmother. Majella is a compelling character caught in a fascinating slice of time, and her journey is exquisitely rendered.
VERDICT With echoes of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine crossed with the 1990s-set British sitcom Derry Girls, this debut is recommended for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Emma Donoghue, and Sally Rooney.

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