Review: The Local News by Miriam Gershow

local-news

Miriam Gershow’s debut novel, The Local News, is an excellent story narrated by 15 year old Lydia Pasternak, whose older brother Danny has mysteriously gone missing after shooting hoops with a couple of friends at the local elementary school.  

Lydia doesn’t exactly miss her brother right away.  Her feelings are complicated.  Danny and his football playing friends spent years picking on her and calling her names, but he’s still her brother, and she has good memories from when they were little kids.  Danny, athletic and loud, took up a lot of space in the family, and his absence in their lives is huge.  

Her parents are disconnected, drifting through the days in anguished grief.  They are hyper focused on finding their child- “Not you,” she tells herself; “their other child.”  Lydia feels forgotten at home.  It’s the opposite at school- everyone knows who she is. Even the most popular kids, the ones who never gave her the time of day before, suddenly want to know how she’s doing; what’s new with the investigation.  At times it seems she is who she is only in relation to her brother. 

Lydia has a nerdy friend, David, with whom she talks about world politics and other brainy topics.  David is her only friend who is all hers- completely independent of her brother.  She is comfortable with David until his attraction for her becomes obvious, and they drift apart as things get awkward between them.  She then starts hanging around with cheery Lola Pepper, an admirer of her brother and captain of the flag team, falling into the party scene Danny vacated.  

The Pasternaks hire a private investigator when the local police hit a wall with the case.  Lydia develops a crush on the PI and finds herself focused and energized; organizing and analyzing letters from strangers, looking for possible clues, going over mug shots, taking notes.  When the PI has exhausted most of the leads, he turns a suspicious eye on Lydia, freaking her out and turning her off. 

I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.  Gershow nailed Lydia’s complex adolescent voice.  It reminded me of Melinda’s voice in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  She’s smart, wry, sad, funny, damaged, and heartbreakingly real.  I ached for Lydia, especially as she lay awake night after night listening to the silence in the next room, her brother’s bedroom.  I cried at one bittersweet interaction with her dad, when “for the first time in a long time, I remembered a little bit that he loved me, so I loved him a little bit back.”   And the end.. well, the end tore me up.  

The book is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, from the title to the cover (the same blue) to the subject matter.  In both we have families that are disintegrating over a missing loved one.  And I also thought about Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan, a book with a similar story about the disappearance of a teen.  But I preferred The Local News to both those books.  The Local News is Lydia’s story and told from her perspective alone, while the others are told from several perspectives, including the missing teen.  I thought the single narration was a more effective, less diluted way to tell the story.  But the main reason I preferred The Local News is because at the end we get to see Lydia as an adult and understand how the loss of her brother continues to affect her relationships years later.  In the wake of Danny’s disappearance, life has been forever altered. 

Sharp, raw, and brilliantly written, this is a powerful book and one I can highly recommend.  

Please check out this terrific guest post from Miriam Gershow:  From Books to Babies.  To visit the author’s website, click HERE.  And check out Miriam’s TLC Book Tour for other reviews of The Local News.

18 Responses

  1. Oh my gosh! I just read Speak and loved it! I’ve got to make time to get to this soon.

  2. I’m glad to hear that you thought of this book so highly. That’s wonderful! It should be a smashing success for TLC reviewers.

  3. I wish I would have liked this as much as you did! I far preferred “The Lovely Bone.” But I did like reading a story from a totally different point of view and I thought that Lydia was really well written. I live in a house full of teenagers and it was really easy for me to imagine a teenage acting and reacting in the same ways.

    Lisa

  4. My review of the book is here: http://litandlife.blogspot.com/2009/06/local-news.html. I added a link to your review.

  5. What a great review! I’ve had an ARC of this on my shelf for a few months and have been thinking of pitching it to my book club as a future selection. I will definitely go for it now.

  6. This sounds like a great book to read this summer. Thanks for your review.

  7. Great review, Lisa! I am glad you were as enthusiastic as I was about it. For me, it was the writing that sealed the deal – just beautifully expressed from start to finish.

  8. Sounds wonderful…I’m never going to be able to get to all the books I want to, am I?

  9. This sounds quite interesting – I’ll be looking for it. Thanks!

  10. I hadn’t heard of this one, but it sounds good! Great review!🙂

  11. Great review. This one sounds interesting.

  12. I have this on my TBR List. Sounds good!

  13. […] ~ The Local News by Miriam Gershow, reviewed by Lisa at Books on the Brain. […]

  14. I’m going to come back to this one Lisa as soon as I read it. I see you liked it so that’s good enough for now. I’m glad you did.

  15. I had mixed feelings about The Lovely Bones, but I think I might like this one. It sounds sad, but wonderful. Loved your review of this one, thorough in all the right ways, but not too spoilery.

  16. I loved this, too! Nice connection to Speak… Good call! I couldn’t get past page 20 with Lovely Bones (tried twice), but maybe I should try again…

  17. I linked to your review on my giveaway.

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