September 12, 2011

The Local News

I just finished The Local News, and if I had to give a quick review I'd call it "compelling and squirmy." It's about a high school girl whose high school brother vanishes. At first it hits a really good introspective note, with the girl talking interestingly about the weird feelings involved in sustaining that level of anxiety over time, and the different ways the different family members handle it---and about what it's like when the missing person is kind of a cruel dumb jerk.

The Local News, by Miriam Gershow
(image from

But then a certain distance in (1/4th of they way? 1/3rd?), I started saying aloud, "Okay, if something doesn't HAPPEN or CHANGE in the next ten pages, I'm giving up and skipping to the end." I think a pretty big chunk could have been snipped out of the middle---but on the other hand, I DIDN'T give up and skip to the end, so maybe not. If I were trying to spin it positively, I'd say it gave a good idea of what it would be like to be IN that situation where you had to sustain that kind of anxiety even though nothing was happening.

It's a book for adults, I think, but it has a young-adult theme. I found I identified way more with the parents, but then I was cringey because I was having to look at what _I_ considered "them doing pretty well, considering," but from the point of view of someone doing a good job of pointing out how kids don't really see it that way---or how it doesn't really matter if the parental behavior is totally justified, it's still harming the kids.

It also spends plenty of time visiting the stupidness and carelessness and meanness and bumbling mistakes of high school kids.

Another big cringe for me was the way I saw how "supporting a family in crisis" can look from the point of view of someone in that family. Fundraisers, candlelight vigils, kind words, cards from strangers: I saw them all from a point of view I wasn't comfortable seeing them from. I already second- and third- and fourth-guess so much, adding this kind of material sends me for a bit of a spin. But on the other hand, I felt like it was done in a way that let me appreciate the added perspective without feeling attacked and accused for good intentions.

And this is a huge thing for me: the story line resolved.

So! In short! I don't know if I recommend it or not. It wasn't the cheery/entertaining kind of book, it was the thought-provoking kind---but so many of the thoughts it was provoking were kind of downers. But I was glad I read them. So.


Nik-Nak said...

I read a book over the weekend and I pretty much NEED for you to read it too. I think you could discuss it SO WELL.

Jodi Piccoult Sing You Home. It is probably the best book I have ever read. It spins together divorce, fertility issues and IVF, homosexual marriage, religion, everything you could imagine. I never knew where the story was taking me at any point and for that reason I read it in two days. I'd love to see your take on it.

Misty said...

" it doesn't really matter if the parental behavior is totally justified, it's still harming the kids."

Knife to the gut. That is pretty freaking profound, you know.

Swistle said...

Misty- ME TOO. It made me feel sick to think about it---and kind of hopeless, too, since sometimes there's no solution to it, it just has to happen that way. Urg.

JeannetteLS said...

well. Thank YOU so much. Yet another book to put on the list. Great review. I want to read it, but know that I have to read it when I can deal with the subject matter. And it DOES sound as if the page upon page of little happening may have recreated some of their experience. I agree with Misty's comment as well.

Like I needed yet another book to read when I have so many to read... but haven't. Sigh...

You should send your review to the publisher of the book--or put it on Amazon or something. It will sell copies of the thing!

Cayt said...

Dear Swistle, I love your book reviews. I still think frequently about Geek Love and keep intending to get it, but the bookshop where I saw it is run by someone to whom I made overtures of friendship and was shot down in a fairly cruel way (which on the one hand, great, I'm glad I know she's capable of acting like that before I invest emotionally in friendship, but on the other hand, that ruined both the nice thoughts about her as a person and the experience of buying books at that particular bookshop) and so I'm not sure if I'll get past those associations with that book.

ssm said...

I never know what to do with books like this. One the one hand, books with conflict are inherently well-paced, but on the other hand, i don't like being uncomfortable and for a lack of a better term, completely clenched throughout a book. But if I avvoid books like this (and Room, which I am still scared of), I'm only left with books where nothing happens and fluffy YA and...meh. This is all to say that I *want* to read this book, because ever since you recommended Suzanne Finnamore I trust your taste completely, but, but...the clenching. I don't know. (And right now I am still stuck reading _The Hobbit_, huuurl.)

Nicole said...

That DOES sound a bit cringe-y. I had this experience while reading Shantaram, in that I felt if something didn't change soon, I would just have to give up. This was when the main character was in an Indian prison. You can probably imagine the descriptions. I was like, if he doesn't get out of this prison soon, THIS BOOK IS DEAD TO ME.

Saly said...

Your reviews always make me want to just go out and get the book! Immediately. I just started Dear American Airlines. I'll let you know what I think.

This one sounds like my kind of book though. I'm gonna keep it in mind.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I think this review just took ambivalence to new heights!

Liz said...

I read this book because your review intrigued me, but I don't feel ambivalent about it. For me I simply didn't like it in the end. I didn't like the choices the author made. Plain and simple.
Different thought. Do authors ever send you books to review?

Swistle said...

Liz- I always turn them down: I've found I can only review books if I choose them myself. Otherwise I can't bear to say anything negative!