Disturbing, heart wrenching, powerful, and shattering. A Muslim lawyer takes on the hardest legal case of her career and finds the lines between professional and personal slipping as she defends a disabled white girl in her accusation of rape against four local Muslim boys. This is not a casual read by any description, but it is an extremely powerful one.
A court case surrounding a "he said, she said" rape trial with the added complexities of disability and racial tensions? Yeah, we went there. And it was as messy as you can imagine it to be.
Jodie is a a 16-year-old white girl with facial deformities and a story to tell. When she walks into the Artemis House, a legal institution that provides council to women, and tells her story... it's shocking. In it, she accuses 4 Muslim boys from her high school of violence and sexual assault.
Zara, a Muslim herself, is Jodie's case worker. She believes Jodie and vows to defend her no matter the cost.
However, Zara herself is dealing with several personal issues during this time as well. Her family life is shattered: when Zara flees her husband's family and a bad arranged marriage, she's branded negatively by the local Muslim community. Her family is upset at her lack of tradition, her lack of subservience, her mental fortitude and independence.
Adding this sexual assault trial against "their" boys does not help matters.
It also doesn't help that Zara's struggling with her emotional state and her dependence on prescription drugs. When life throws you curveballs, why not take a chill pill? When one becomes two becomes more.... Zara's sinking here too.
And then more things come out about the case, and Jodie's story...
Just who, exactly, is telling the truth?
It's a testament to the author's talent that she evokes such strong themes and visceral reactions to her story. For that reason, Kia Abdullah is one my list to watch for future books. While I think I'm done with sexual assault themes in novels for good—NOT the fault of this book, but something I've learned through trial and error this year is not a good topic for me to consume for personal reasons—this was an extremely powerful and well-told story.
One of the strongest elements of this novel is the balancing act between the two storylines and the actual truth. Like most court cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I appreciated the author's deft handling of the plot's conclusion... especially as it would have been so easy to misstep and deliver one of the more expected outcomes.
This is the kind of novel that continuously asks you, the reader, to check yourself. Are you experiencing bias by wishing for this outcome or the other? Who are you siding with, and why? How do you respond to Zara's personal quagmires? Just who exactly is "winning" here, or are there no winners?
A complex book. Recommended reading for all readers of the genre and, honestly, other adult fiction readers too. A powerful story that deserves a wide audience.
Thank you to St Martins Press for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A singular, comedic novel about a 20-something woman on the spectrum with a lot of things she doesn't like that could probably be summarized as: Other People.
Dialogue/Formatting: ★★ Not for me
Big Girl, Small Town is a very unique read. For one, it's extremely funny if you like your humor with some bite and darker edges. For another, it is an extremely compelling character study. While I personally had some issues with the formatting, I think this is a stunning debut by an Irish author to watch.
Majella is a 20-something young woman living in a small Northern Ireland border town with her alcoholic mother. She has a job, she has strong likes and dislikes, and most importantly she has a lot of opinions about the world around her.
Told over the span of one week's time, almost down to the minute-to-minute experience, we live Majella's structured existence with her and discover a few things along the way. It's a quirky, over-the-top yet poignant slice of life read with a LOT crammed into its pages.
What will Majella's week bring her? And will she like it?
Majella is a character that will stay with me for a long, long time—and that's a good thing. The author's ability to bring Majella to stunning, technicolor life is something to be admired these days in fiction. I look forward to this author's future works almost solely because of this. Characters are the backbone of every story, and this one's backbone is STRONG.
Besides the glowing positives, I will say that I, as a personal reader, struggled with the formatting and structure of the book. For one, it uses dashes for dialogue instead of quote marks. Yes, I know that seems super minor, but it's not to my preference and therefore it took a while to get into the novel... and I want to highlight it for other readers who may also need the warning. The structural issue I had was in relation to the plot's pacing—living the one week in extreme detail with Majella was a bit tiring for me. I'm used to more breaks from my main characters, and used to more time progressing. Again, complete personal preference!
However, personal notes aside, this is a stunning debut and I would encourage other general fiction readers to give this one a try!
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.