The 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 Books • a lovely shore breeze • Becky’s Book Reviews • Book Club Classics • Bookopolis • Books and Cooks • books i done read • Books on the Brain • Boston Bibliophile • Caribousmom • Constance Reader • Every Day I Write the Book • Lit and Life • Stephanie’s Written Word
For interviews with the author, visit these blogs:
Becky’s Book Reviews • Manic Mommies Book Club • Paper Fort • Worducopia
For guest posts by the author, visit these blogs:
Books on the Brain • Caribousmom • Every Day I Write the Book
Thank you to Spiegel & Grau for sending me this book to review.
This is the ninth book I review for the New Authors Challenge.