The Local News: A Novel, by Miriam Gershow – Book Review

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.


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  1. I remember hearing about this one a while ago and promptly got a copy, but I’m afraid it’s been languishing in my bookcase, unread, ever since. You’ve definitely renewed my interest in it — hope to get to it soon!

    1. It’s so easy to let a good book that you intended to read slip through the cracks. Life has a way of happening, and there are just so many good books.

    1. I saw one, maybe two, that were mixed and they seemed to want more closure, but not very many. It was a very thoughtful novel.

  2. I’ve had this book on my list for a long time, and I think the only reason why I haven’t read it yet is because my library didn’t have it. I should probably check again, sometimes they are just slow on the uptake.

  3. I was going to pass on this title and now you’ve changed my mind. The balanced approach and the well-developed relationships have me curious.

    1. One of the best things and very sad things about the book is that it followed a reasonable trajectory for such a devastated family.

  4. What a lovely review — I especially like the way you described the author’s handling of complicated relationships. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this novel.

    1. The author did a really great job. I would read and think about what was happening and it is always something that you can see for the situation even if it is a little bit uncomfortable.

    1. I felt so sad for her with her crush on the detective. She just seemed to be so lonely and so afloat. No matter what her relationship with your brother, sometimes there are things that you never get over.

  5. This sounds really interesting. I like books that are challenging, but well written – books that really make you thing. I’ll definitely keep this one in mind for future reading.