thing I've learned is that strange things do happen. They happen
all the time. Today, for instance, my best friend Jill's cat spoke.
We were making brownies in the kitchen when we heard it say, 'Let
Thus begins another magical adventure by Alice Hoffman. She infuses
suburban angst and a significant dose of otherworldly sensitivity
into her latest novel, LOCAL GIRLS: a collection of short stories
that ring true with their depictions of a family's legacy of fear,
desire and hope.
Jill and Gretel are best friends. Gretel's mom, Frances, is sick,
and her cousin (and best friend), Margot, tries to hold everybody
together. Her brother, Jason, is a science prodigy who eventually
turns to the darker side of himself, and Frieda, Gretel's beloved
grandmother, comes and goes throughout the stories, in life and in
spirit, bringing with her the wisdom of great life lessons. These
men and women go through a whole array of experiences together, but
LOCAL GIRLS doesn't give us the story from one voice --- instead,
every character has an opportunity to give us a look at what's
going on from her perspective.
Gretel is the character we spend the most time with, looking
backward and forward on the events of her family's life together,
mostly after her father is out of the picture. He walked out on her
mother after a long marriage, taking up with a younger woman who
his children (and ex) really hate. It's not a happy situation, and
Hoffman is able to get us deep inside each person who has been
affected by his betrayals. However, instead of ending on sad,
depressing notes, most of the stories in LOCAL GIRLS (not all, but
most) reward us with a life-affirming look at what drives us to
pursue our deepest desires, keep secrets to ourselves or find the
courage to open ourselves up again to love and life when someone
close has let us down.
Each story gets so completely inside the characters' heads that you
will feel as if you have met these people before, in life or in
literature. At the end of the episodic stories, you are left with a
remarkably complete picture of the lives of three generations of
women and the other important people in their lives. They love,
they lie, they get sick and they die...none of this will ruin any
of the surprises that await you in Hoffman's latest magical
STILL AMONG THE LIVING and LOCAL GIRLS, the last two stories in the
book, deal with the aftermath of death in what has to be the most
positive way I have encountered in any contemporary fiction. We
practically stand up and cheer as we see our beloved Margot and
Gretel take important steps towards moving on with their lives,
pushing their sadness aside for something much greater to come.
This is one of the most hopeful books I've ever read.
All author profits are being donated to breast cancer care and
research organizations. Alice Hoffman proves that she lives the way
she writes, with compassion and love for humankind and the foibles
and frailties that drive us to our everyday decisions. This is more
than a great summer read --- its beauty and elegance and hope will
stay with you long after the last page has been turned.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 22, 2011
- Publication Date: May 1, 2000
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Berkley Trade
- ISBN-10: 0425174344
- ISBN-13: 9780425174340