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.