The Local News: A Novel, by Miriam Gershow
Spiegal & Grau – February 9, 2010 – Paperback – 384 pages
Source: Sent by the author for review
Lydia Pasternak’s life has changed with the frightening disappearance of her brother Danny, a star on the football team. As the search for him continues Lydia finds herself thrust into new circumstances- while her parents become increasingly removed and oblivious to her presence, Lydia begins to step out of herself to experience many teenage firsts like parties, boys and popularity- while navigating her mixed feelings on her troubled relationship with her brother, her own grief and the strong outpouring of emotion from those around her.
The Local News is a thoughtful and observant novel about the complex relationships that we have with our families, and how the people we love and their lives become open for public consumption in the face of tragedy and death. Lydia is a smart narrator, as observant of her own need to push the boundaries and take advantage of the opportunities available to her in the wake of what has happened to her brother, as she is of the fact that her parents are adrift and leaving her to her own devices at a crucial point in her life.
There were not a lot of characters that can say that I loved in this novel, but I felt so much compassion for Lydia because in many ways I didn’t feel she had a lot of choice in the people dealing with. Her relationship with her childhood best friend is dictated by their intelligence, outsider status, interest in politics, and becomes burdened by their changing feelings for each other. Her relationships with Danny’s friends seem to be dictated by their need to fill a void. The experiences that Lydia has and the voice with which she portrays them are achingly real. Her questions, obsessions, and the choices that she makes just seem so right on for a teenage girl her age and level of precociousness. Her crush on the somewhat slimy private investigator was suspenseful and realistic in its unfolding.
While the subject matter is not happy, I enjoy books that take a balance approach in exploring the relationships in our lives which are often simplified when they no longer exist as they once did. Gershow excels at fleshing out her characters’ relationships so that they are three dimensional and the reader can imagine all the paths that they might have taken just from the scenarios she presents. This novel could have easily been mired down with the weight of Danny’s disappearance, but that never becomes the central story, but serves as a catalyst for Lydia’s coming-of-age story, and the myriad ways this affects the girl she had been and the woman she becomes.