Friday, July 10, 2009

The Local News by Miriam Gershow (a review)

The Local News by Miriam GershowThe Local News by Miriam Gershow is the story of 15-year-old Lydia Pasternak whose older brother Danny has disappeared. While Danny was athletic and popular (and not particularly bright), Lydia is smart and most definitely not popular, at least not until Danny disappears. I started this book with some trepidation: for one thing, I was feeling a bit tired of the “missing person” plot; for another, I had read Tara’s review at Books and Cooks, which she concluded by saying: “So, The Local News was not really for me, but if you’re interested in the story it’s certainly well done.” Although I wasn’t that interested in the setup, in the end I’m very glad I read the book because it’s less about Danny’s disappearance than it is about Lydia’s experience of high school.

More specifically, Gershow perfectly captures the crazy changeable nature of high school where it is possible, from one day to the next, to go from superfreak to member of the in-crowd and where friendships are sometime dictated more by circumstance and proximity than by shared interests or genuine connection. Only very occasionally did I feel like Gershow missed the mark, as, for example, when Lydia has this thought: “This grandiose treatment, the stuff of only the most ambitious and helpful of suicide ideations, only elevated the situation to the realm of [the] surreal” (p. 272). Although this was presumably supposed to be the thought of adult rather than teenage Lydia, the language used completely pulled me out of this fairly intense moment.

Now here’s the weird part. I read the end of this book in a teashop after our next-to-last blogger meet-up. A song came on that made me jump up and ask the waitress what it was. It turned out she’d started playing the soundtrack to the movie Le peuple migrateur (Winged Migration in English)—and so the whole soundtrack played in the background as I finished the book.* As I listened and read, I had the weirdest sensation, as if a space had opened up in my chest from throat to heart. And I felt like I knew Lydia from the inside out: I became her. I recently read an interview with poet Peter Levitt, who said: “There is no experience of ‘writer’ and ‘writing’ as distinct or separate entities, no subject and object. That duality collapses and there is just the activity itself.” Something similar happened to me in that teashop: there was no me separate from the story I was reading. In a guest post at Everyday I Write the Book, Gershow said, “Over and over, I try to write my way back into that experience [of high school] and out the other side of it.” For the me that briefly became Lydia, I think she succeeded.

*Needless to say, I listened to “To Be by Your Side” by Nick Cave, the first song on this soundtrack, over and over as I wrote this review.

Read other reviews of this book at these blogs:
Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Booksa lovely shore breezeBecky’s Book ReviewsBook Club ClassicsBookopolisBooks and Cooksbooks i done readBooks on the BrainBoston BibliophileCaribousmomConstance ReaderEvery Day I Write the BookLit and LifeStephanie’s Written Word

For interviews with the author, visit these blogs:
Becky’s Book ReviewsManic Mommies Book ClubPaper FortWorducopia

For guest posts by the author, visit these blogs:
Books on the BrainCaribousmomEvery Day I Write the Book

Thank you to Spiegel & Grau for sending me this book to review.

New Authors Challenge button
This is the ninth book I review for the New Authors Challenge.


  1. this one is on my tbr pile that is sadly not even close to getting smaller. Enjoyed your review!

  2. Wow! That book had quite an affect on you. I'm really anxious to read it now.

  3. Sounds like you had an out of body experience with this one!!! Interesting!

  4. Sounds like you really connected with this book and the main character. Winged Migration is such a neat movie, but I don't recall the soundtrack. I'll have to give it a listen!

  5. Great review! I've heard good things about this one.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  6. Sorry I tainted your thoughts about this one! It seems like everyone but me really liked this (I haven't seen any other less than glowing reviews.) I guess, I am just not interested in reading about the high school experience. I had the experience, it wasn't great, and I don't care to think about it anymore, nor read about it. I suppose that's why I didn't connect more with this book. But I do think it's very well done. I'm glad you enjoyed this!

  7. I really have mixed feelings about this one. There were parts of it I really, really liked and I liked the premise of telling the story from Lydia's point of view. But overall, it left me kind of flat. Here's my review:

  8. Intrensting review. It seems you really connected with the story. That must have felt very special!


  9. Really enjoyed your review of this one. I think I'd probably like it so I'm going to have to add this one to my list.

  10. I haven't read this book but I loved your story about the ending in the tea shop!! Isn't it great how music and books can help us make that human connection!!??

  11. Hi Avis,

    I have an award for you. =)

  12. I haven't read this one yet but it's on my TBR list. I remember when you said you had reservations about reading it so I'm happy to hear you liked it in the end.

  13. Ah, Luanne, I know what you mean about the ever-expanding TBR pile! Glad you enjoyed my review and I'll keep an eye out for yours.

    Kathy, I was a bit worried that my experience would sound completely crazy, but I had to share it anyway!

    Jenners, I wouldn't exactly call it an out-of-body experience (it was a very physical sensation), but it was certainly weird!

    Ali, I had no recollection of the soundtrack either before I heard it in the tea shop, but I love it, especially the Nick Cave song!

    Thanks, Anna! I do recommend it!

    Tara, no need to apologize! (I hope my comment didn't make you feel bad!) My experience of high school wasn't great either, but I find reading this type of book is kind of cathartic. I have come across a few less-than-glowing reviews, so you're not the only one!

    Lit and Life, I've added a link to your review.

    Thanks, Tiina and Iliana!

    Thank you for saying that, Staci! As I said to Kathy above, I was a bit worried that I would sound like a freak. I do think it was the music/book combo that did it.

    Thank you, Linda Ellen, you are so sweet!

    Donna, I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it. I think you'll enjoy it.

  14. Sorry, Iliana, I didn't mean to not bold your name in my previous comment!

  15. Oh the joys and sorrows of high fickle it can be, how moody and changeable like the weather.

    The fact that there was specific music playing while you finished the book, allowing you to transport yourself into the character must have only added to the connection you felt with the author and her words.

  16. Sounds like an interesting book. Your experience while reading it makes me want to read it too!
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  17. Now I'll have to get my hands on a copy of this, sounds like one that I would really enjoy. Excellent review!

  18. My daughter is at that awful stage right now of being in high school. Reading your review I know we'd both like to read this book. High school is that time of life when even the littlest comments can sting and remain with you. I'm going to try to track down that song you've mentioned and give it a listen too.
    polo-puppy-fluffy at hotmail dot com

  19. I've read several reviews on this book. It sounds a bit odd, but worth reading.


  20. This would be perfect for my high schooler, thanks for the review!

  21. I LOVED your review!! You did an awesome job of trying to explain how the book made you feel. This book is definitely a must-read!

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net