Review: The Local News

MMBC May Selection (discussion begins May 20)
The Local News is the debut for Miriam Gershow. It has been called “deftly heartbreaking” with “urgency and heft” by The New York Times, as well as “an accomplished debut” (Publisher’s Weekly) with a “disarmingly unsentimental narrative voice,” (Kirkus Reviews).

When you see a missing person story on the news, have you ever stopped and REALLY thought how the siblings are handling the situation? The Local News is Lydia’s story and her brother is missing.

This story made me feel slightly uncomfortable – Lydia’s story is heartbreaking. I’m sure the author intended for me to feel this way.

When Danny’s goes missing, the family is paralyzed to the point where the Pasternak’s daughter feels misplaced and is longing for love and acceptance. We follow Lydia through flashbacks and memories telling stories of her sudden step up the popularity ladder, a teen’s view of private investigators, her parents and more.

The story ends with a flash forward of 10 years, and we get to see how the family and town have survived this tragedy.
Author Q&A
Tell us a little about yourself (biography): I grew up in Michigan, spending most of my childhood in a suburb not unlike Fairfield in The Local News. In 1994, I got on an Amtrak train and checked out the west coast, moving to Oregon shortly after. I've lived here ever since - 6 years in Portland, the rest in Eugene, where I still live now, except I've added a husband and an extremely spoiled cat to my household. For my day job, I'm an instructor at the University of Oregon.

Do you write daily? When I'm working on a project, yes. The nice thing about a day job at a university, is that my teaching schedule is only two or three days a week, and even on those days, I can usually squeeze some time in before or between classes. Between projects I tend to take a stretch of time off, up to several months.

Are you working on a new book or have an idea for one? I am, but I'm superstitious about talking about projects too early. So I'll just say it's very different in tone and style from The Local News, though I once again - and not intentionally - find myself back in the realm of sibling relationships.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I think anything that helps people to read books or helps make books more popular and accessible is excellent. I know people who swear by their Kindle, and I have several friends who've bought my book via Kindle. Great. Personally, I don't think I'll ever buy one, though. I love the sensory experience of holding the book and turning the pages. I can't see easily giving that up.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? The one tip is to focus on the writing, itself, as much as possible, without getting too preoccupied about things like getting published or finding an agent. The business end of things is daunting and distracting. I kept myself out of it for as long as possible, and just kept my nose to the proverbial grindstone. Give yourself time to really figure out how to write and how to write well - which can be a long and slow and scary process with plenty of setbacks - before turning your attention to the publishing industry. And while you're busy with the writing, find a few trusted readers who understand what you're trying to do, and who can both cheerlead and be healthily critical of your work. (I suppose that's technically two tips).

What are you reading now? A short book of essays by Larry McMurtry about Texas and reading and family and cowboy myths. It's called "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen." It was a loan from my father-in-law, who is a big McMurtry fan. He and I have wildly divergent book tastes most of the time. I'm normally a reader of contemporary fiction. But his recommendations always end up diversifying and deepening my library.

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics: It's hard to pick just one or two, so I picked three. I love Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? for its economy and tenderness and sharply witty voice. I love Charles Baxter's The Feast of Love for its intelligent hopefulness and for its seamless braiding together of multiple narratives. And I love Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita for its muscular playfulness with language and, of course, its deeply twisted and deeply flawed, yet deeply sympathetic narrator. That book's an interesting one - it's taken up such a place in our popular culture that people tend to think they really know it even if they haven't read it. I was one of those people. But knowing the most salacious details of the story has nothing to do with truly knowing that book. Once I read it, it made me think differently about how to write sentences.

Type: Fiction, 368 pages, Hardcover


“Going missing was the only interesting thing my brother had ever done.”Even a decade later, the memories of the year Lydia Pasternak turned sixteen continue to haunt her. As a teenager, Lydia lived in her older brother’s shadow. While Danny’s athletic skills and good looks established his place with the popular set at school, Lydia’s smarts relegated her to the sidelines, where she rolled her eyes at her brother and his meathead friends and suffered his casual cruelty with resigned bewilderment. Though a part of her secretly wished for a return of the easy friendship she and Danny shared as children, another part of her wished Danny would just vanish. And then, one night, he did.

In the year following Danny Pasternak’s disappearance, his parents go off the rails, his town buzzes with self-indulgent mourning, and his little sister Lydia finds herself thrust into unwanted celebrity, forced to negotiate her ambivalent—often grudging—grief for a brother she did not particularly like. Suddenly embraced by Danny’s old crowd, forgotten by her parents, and drawn into the missing person investigation by her family’s intriguing private eye, Lydia both blossoms and struggles to find herself during Danny’s absence. But when a trail of clues leads to a shocking outcome in her brother’s case, the teenaged Lydia and the adult she will become are irrevocably changed, even now as she reluctantly prepares to return to her hometown.

Relentlessly gripping, often funny, and profoundly moving, The Local News is a powerful exploration of the fraught relationship between a brother and sister and how our siblings define who we are.

"Miriam Gershow has a fresh, funny and very engaging voice and a powerful story to tell, and Lydia Pasternak is a character you'll miss long after the book is finished. I was charmed from the first page and undone by the last." - Beth Gutcheon, author of Good-Bye and Amen and Leeway Cottage

“The Local News achieves two nearly impossible things: It's a funny book about harrowing circumstances, and it's a poignant book about high school. Gershow's narrator, Lydia Pasternak, is droll, keen, and utterly engaging. I couldn't put this novel down." - Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and Four Seasons in Rome