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April 15, 2024

The Local News: Book Review

By Wendy Robards

The Local News, by Miriam Gershow.

I was stuck between wanting him and hating him, between hoping he'd come sit on the edge of my bed and hoping he'd have some gruesome accident that would scar him or paralyze him or both. -- from The Local News, page 73 -

Going missing, I wanted to yell from some deep, dark pit in the middle of me, was the only interesting thing my brother had ever done. -- from The Local News, page 6 -

Lydia Pasternak is fifteen years old when her brother Danny, a popular high school athlete, disappears. First he is there and then he is gone, leaving behind parents who are stunned into a drifting existence centered around finding their son and Lydia, whose ambivalent relationship with Danny overshadows her life.

Before Danny disappeared, Lydia was a bit of a loner. Exceptionally bright and physically immature, her best friend is a boy with whom she enjoys discussing world politics. But after Danny has gone missing, Lydia experiences a surge in her popularity. She is now the sister of a missing person -- and Danny's friends from the football team and the girls who flashed him dazzling smiles begin to include her in their social network.When Lydia is drawn into the investigation by a private detective hired by her parents, she not only begins to uncover the mystery of her brother's disappearance, but discovers truths about herself.

The Local News, Miriam Gershow's powerful debut novel, is a nuanced story about Lydia's coming of age amid this one tragic event in her life. Narrated from Lydia's point of view, the novel reaches into the psyche of a teenager and examines how it must feel to grow up in the shadow of her popular brother, her parent's favored child ... a boy who Lydia did not always like, but certainly loved.

Not only does The Local News examine the relationship between siblings, but it also explores the power of grief and how that emotion can define our relationships and change our lives ... how a single event tainted with loss can change who we become.

I made a noise, a dizzy, drunken, wordless sound. It was all I had, a low sort of growl. And that was the moment I really knew -- the sick, sudden, ugly moment -- how incapable we were, how impotent and inconsolable, how limited our reach. Grief had already, in a few short months, mined an impassable trench between us. We were -- like a boy buried in a ditch or bloated in salty ocean water or starved in some sadist's basement -- beyond rescue. - from The Local News, page 95 -

Gershow's prose draws the reader into Lydia's life quickly -- uncovering her strained relationship with her parents, her awkward sexual awakening, her fears and dreams ... doubts and guilt. The Local News begs the question: How do we define ourselves? Lydia's journey begins to answer that question, examining the development of the individual within the greater context of daughter, sister and friend.

Poignant, engaging and sharply imagined, The Local News is a book which will connect with anyone who remembers the pain of being a teenager. Although it is a coming of age story, it is also Danny's story and the impact his loss has on family and friends. It is a loss the reader feels acutely. Danny is only known to the reader through the eyes of his sister, and yet by the end of the book I felt I knew not only who he was, but who he might have been had fate not intervened.

Gershow has written a very human story -- a story which extends beyond the headlines and into the heart of a young girl.


Four stars out of five.

Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".


Article © Wendy Robards. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-07-13
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