The Local News
"After my brother went missing, my parents let me use their car whenever I wanted, even though I only had a learner's permit." The reader enters Lydia Pasternak's life as it disintegrates following the disappearance of 18-year-old football hero Danny. Lydia's life with her big brother has been complicated. Although the two were close as young children, Danny became a popular, sought-after teenager who disparaged his sister frequently, often before an appreciative audience of his peers. When Lydia, now 15, remembers her brother, it is not through rose-colored glasses but from the perspective of the victim of a bully. Yet she can't help but think of the good, long ago times with him, too.
Lydia also recalls when her parents related to her as if she were part of their family. Now they have fallen away in response to the tragedy that has struck them. They no longer eat meals together. The kitchen table is covered with posters of Danny and yellow ribbons for folks to tie around trees and mailboxes. There are piles of letters, too, from people who want to wish them well, people who believe they've spotted Danny, and from people who are crazy. Lydia's mother spends all her time reading these missives, collecting odd ephemera from Danny's life (such as used Band-Aids) and filing information away in the metal file cabinet she's brought into the kitchen.
Lydia's parents don't notice (and likely don't care) that she's out driving. Even the police officer who stops her lets her go when he realizes who she is. But Lydia, weeks after Danny's disappearance, is now used to people treating her with a certain weird kind of deference. She has always had just one friend, David Nelson. They go way back and spend their time in intellectual dissection, debating politics, history and literature. David is the only person with whom Lydia can be herself, especially now with her life falling apart around her. She certainly can’t be real with Chuck, the therapist to whom her parents have arranged for her to unburden herself.
But now, Lydia finds herself either enjoying or enduring a newfound and bizarre popularity. Danny's buddies begin to include her in their camaraderie. Girls who were once Danny's girlfriends yearn to reminisce about him with her. Others who simply had a crush on Danny pursue Lydia's company, too. Out of that group, Lydia makes an unlikely alliance with a gum-smacking flag team member named Lola Pepper. Lola becomes a significant companion for Lydia, especially following an uncomfortable scene with David.
As time goes by, Lydia allows herself to be pulled into the social life of the school, which she continues to regard with a cynical eye. She also becomes enraptured with her parents' private detective, using her considerable intellectual powers to involve herself in the actual investigation of Danny's vanishing. And she continues to watch her parents implode as she struggles to survive growing up against a backdrop of despair. A glimpse into Lydia as an adult gives scope to the life-long reverberations of a family member's disappearance.
Readers are transported wholly into Lydia's life, which, although fascinating, is often a truly discomforting experience. Lydia is a refreshingly not-at-all-beautiful, intelligent and witty narrator with a black sense of humor. Her story is unvarnished, lacking in white wash and grittily realistic. THE LOCAL NEWS feels understated and elegant, and is highly recommended as an engrossing read.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on February 24, 2009
The Local News
- Publication Date: February 24, 2009
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
- ISBN-10: 0385527616
- ISBN-13: 9780385527613