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Local Girls

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Overview

From the New York Times best-selling author of The DovekeepersAlice Hoffman is at her haunting, thought-provoking best with these interconnected stories about a Long Island family, the Samuelsons, and the lessons in survival and transformation that life brings to every family...

"Pulls the reader in effortlessly...Hoffman has the power to make you really laugh and really cry." —USA Today

"Moving and deadpan ...

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Local Girls

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Overview

From the New York Times best-selling author of The DovekeepersAlice Hoffman is at her haunting, thought-provoking best with these interconnected stories about a Long Island family, the Samuelsons, and the lessons in survival and transformation that life brings to every family...

"Pulls the reader in effortlessly...Hoffman has the power to make you really laugh and really cry." —USA Today

"Moving and deadpan funny...Epiphanies about passion, pain, and resiliency induce smiles and shivers in equal measure." —Entertainment Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Alice Hoffman's latest is a collection of interwoven stories that create a tapestry almost as satisfying and fully realized as a novel. The literal power of bewitchment in her novel-turned-movie, Practical Magic, reappears here in sustained but isolated moments that pack something much more earthly but almost as potent: hope. The central character of most of the tales is Gretel Samuelson, a girl local to Franconia, in Long Island. Misfortune plagues her otherwise unremarkable middle-class life, beginning in the very first story, "Dear Diary," when her parents split up and she must ride to the rescue of her best friend, Jill ("the pretty one"). When high school boys grab a Halloween-costumed Jill, Gretel hits them, her heavy Gypsy bracelets knocking one of them flat. The girls flee, and for the first time in months, Gretel feels great. Her knockout punch strikes her first blow for freedom from sorrow, from disappointing men and the thoughtless havoc they wreak. Taking fate in her own hands, however briefly, restores to Gretel the belief that her life is her own and that love might still be "a state of mind ready to grace anyone willing to accept it. Anyone who cares."

The wish that love is something a fierce-hearted person can make out of thin air both buoys and sinks Gretel through the next ten years encompassed by these stories. Through her parents' divorce, her father's remarriage, the death of her beloved grandmother, her life remains guided best by those she loves without having to try: her mother, Franny; her mother's inseparable younger cousin, Margot; andJill,who remains her best friend until the morning Gretel finally leaves New York. Makeshift relationships that substitute for family are familiar Hoffman territory, and she paints these bonds between women with a light but unforgettable touch.

Gretel flirts with bitterness but never succumbs to it, mainly because those around her refuse its bleak but tempting hand. Franny not only loses her husband to a younger, crasser woman; she is also diagnosed with cancer and still lives out her days a hopeless romantic, wishing on stars no one else can see. Margot, herself an abandoned wife who desperately wants a child, plays her sidekick role to the hilt, stepping in to mother Gretel when Franny is too ill. In the moments these women of three different generations share, Hoffman hits her most satisfying, if lightly melancholic notes. After they trim Margot's Christmas tree together, snow falls: "We all rushed to the front window to look. It was the kind of snow that you hardly ever see, so heavy and beautiful you fall in love with winter, even though you know you'll have to shovel in the morning." The snow that feels sublime despite the fact that they'll have to shovel it in the morning stands in for the collection as a whole. Each flake shimmers with an individual beauty before letting go to a tormenting hardship that equally defines the mood of this book.

Gretel's world falls apart and remakes itself into something sturdier and true. That balance between bad luck and good, between knowing cynicism and blind belief, is lost on her brother, Jason, the only male in the collection who gets his own story. By the time Jason takes over the narrative in "The Boy Who Wrestled with Angels," however, he's exactly what he declared himself and Gretel to be when their new stepmother dumped them from her car in an opening story. "Face it," Jason says, "we're lost." On the verge of entering Harvard on scholarship, Jason decides to stay put. Perversely, remaining on local soil only leads him down a lost path, and soon he's dealing drugs behind the local deli counter. For Jason, the "local" in the book's title means a shrinking point of view. Soon the magic awaiting discovery within the quotidian — Hoffman's trademark style of epiphany — has been usurped in Jason by drug dependency and, ultimately, a self-deceiving nature.

A different kind of self-discovery also haunts this sure-to-charm collection, and that is the one that awaits us in death. While doppelgängers surround each main character here (for Gretel there's Jill, for Franny there's Margot), two of the characters, in facing death, see a familiar countenance staring back at them. Each experiences his or her own second self hovering nearby — a desolate angel from the life each dying character chose not to live escorts her to some other place. In another author's hands this depiction of death would surely feel forced, but in Hoffman's breezy prose, the twin of ourselves who fetches us from our failing bodies is more sensation than ghost, offering the reader that elusive kind of comfort that only fiction can provide.

In stories like "Bake at 350º," ghosts are more literal and exhibit a bitter sense of humor. Revenge, another thread weaving together Gretel's emerging sense of self, is their trump card. When Gretel's grandmother wills her own death by eating everything the doctor recommends against, she bargains for the life of Franny. When even that accomplishment isn't enough, she returns in Gretel's tumultuous imagination to practice some beyond-the-grave voodoo. The black magic she unleashes is humorous but jagged, and it's that combination that complicates the otherwise merely entertaining qualities of Local Girls. Each story is a bite-size pleasure, and the aura established by the sum of them is enjoyable, bittersweet, and lingering.

Elizabeth Haas is a writer and critic living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

KLIATT
There's an old saying about life, "You have to play with the hand you're dealt." For the Samuelsons and Harringtons of small-town Franconia, New Hampshire, the deck always seems to be stacked against them. After Gretel Samuelson's father moves out and marries a younger woman, her mother Frances goes into a depression and then discovers she has cancer. Gretel, a smart, shrewd teen, becomes passionately involved with hood Sonny Garnet, the town amphetamine dealer, while her younger brother, Jason, turns from Harvard plans to drugs. Jill Harrington's mother also suffers from severe depression, and pregnant Jill quits school before her junior year, marrying Eddie LoPacca, a decent guy, though not the world's brightest. The two girls have been close "local girls" all their lives, just as Frances Samuelson and Margot Molinaro, her recently divorced cousin, have been. In fact, it is Margot who helps Frances rebuild her life by starting a catering business with her, called The Two Widows. Surprisingly, while the events in this novel are the material of classic family tragedies, the tone is rather upbeat, downright funny at times, and attitude is everything. The women—Margot and Frances, Gretel and Jill—encourage each other through the hard times of life. This sisterly bond enables them to survive "the hand they've been dealt." On the last page, when Gretel and Jill discover a firefly, Jill says, "Should I kill it?" As it flies away, Gretel says, "It decided to live." "Good for it," says Jill. "Good for us." They, too, have made that conscious decision. In our society of dysfunctional families and personal struggles, this is an important message for YAs to hear. An easy read that shouldcapture the interest of many teen readers. Reviewer: Susan G. Allison; Libn., Lewiston H.S., Lewiston, ME, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
Library Journal
Local Girls might not be Hoffman's (Practical Magic) finest book, but it's one that lends itself brilliantly to the audio format. Billed as "stories," these are interconnected tales about the same vividly dysfunctional family. The abridgment, therefore, does not interrupt the flow, and key elements are repeated often enough that listeners can pick up any story and get the gist of the whole (though there are a few unfortunate gaps, such as how Gretel's brother actually died). The two voices, Laural Merlington and Aasne Vigesaa (one for the first person voice of Gretel, a young woman whose life is falling apart; the other for women narrating Gretel's various situations), work wonderfully, though by the second tape the supposed "working-class Long Island" accent was beginning to grate on this reviewer's ears (leaving one to think that one actress might be overplaying her role). On the plus side, that same overacting will be seen as humorous by many listeners. Recommended for most audio collections.--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Sarah Ferguson
Told in alternating voices, the stories form a scapbook of pivotal moments in the lives of Gretel and...her best friend, Jill...[at] 12, that unpredictable and dangerous age when sampling shades of lipstick and playing with dolls seem equally interesting.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Ten disastrous years in the life of a family on Long Island, only partly redeemed by the shimmering prose we've come to expect from Hoffman (Here on Earth). There's really no reason why what's billed as a collection of interconnected stories shouldn't be a novel, except that the author apparently couldn't spare the time to make the narration coherently first- or third-person. (More than half the book's contents first appeared in literary periodicals or women's magazines; it appears to have been untouched since then.) Gretel Samuelson begins the tale when she and her best friend Jill are in their early teens, and by the time an omniscient narrator appears with Gretel's grandmother in the sixth installment (How to Talk to the Dead), a lot has gone wrong. Gretel's father has left and remarried; her mother has been diagnosed with cancer; her brother, Jason, a sweet, brilliant boy, seems likely to throw away his impending freshman year at Harvard in favor of drugs and drifting; even their dog has run away. Poor Grandma Frieda doesn't survive ten pages past her entrance, and the death toll mounts in subsequent chapters uneasily alternating between the nearly indistinguishable voices of Gretel and the third-party storyteller. Jason ODs; their mother finally loses her battle with cancer; Jill kills her chances of a future outside Franconia by getting pregnant, marrying the not-very-bright father, and dropping out of high school. Yes, Gretel's divorced cousin Margot ultimately gets a decent man, Gretel eventually goes to college and starts a career in publishing, and some readers may draw consolation from a few admittedly beautiful descriptive passages about the natural world. ButHoffman's trademark there's-magic-beneath-the-surface-of-our-daily-lives stance feels pretty tired here, as do the characters. The central theme—"Fate could twist you around and around, if you weren't careful"—is reiterated so often it ceases to have any impact. Hoffman remains a major talent, but she's marking time here.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425174340
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 685,441
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Hoffman is the bestselling author of nearly twenty acclaimed novels beloved by teens and adults, including Aquamarine and Practical Magic, both made into major motion pictures, as well as The Foretelling, Green Angel, The Ice Queen, and Here on Earth (an Oprah Book Club selection). She has also written the highly praised story collections Local Girls and Blackbird House. The author lives outside of Boston.

Biography

Born in the 1950s to college-educated parents who divorced when she was young, Alice Hoffman was raised by her single, working mother in a blue-collar Long Island neighborhood. Although she felt like an outsider growing up, she discovered that these feelings of not quite belonging positioned her uniquely to observe people from a distance. Later, she would hone this viewpoint in stories that captured the full intensity of the human experience.

After high school, Hoffman went to work for the Doubleday factory in Garden City. But the eight-hour, supervised workday was not for her, and she quit before lunch on her first day! She enrolled in night school at Adelphi University, graduating in 1971 with a degree in English. She went on to attend Stanford University's Creative Writing Center on a Mirrellees Fellowship. Her mentor at Stanford, the great teacher and novelist Albert Guerard, helped to get her first story published in the literary magazine Fiction. The story attracted the attention of legendary editor Ted Solotaroff, who asked if she had written any longer fiction. She hadn't -- but immediately set to work. In 1977, when Hoffman was 25, her first novel, Property Of, was published to great fanfare.

Since that remarkable debut, Hoffman has carved herself a unique niche in American fiction. A favorite with teens as well as adults, she renders life's deepest mysteries immediately understandable in stories suffused with magic realism and a dreamy, fairy-tale sensibility. (In a 1994 article for The New York Times, interviewer Ruth Reichl described the magic in Hoffman's books as a casual, regular occurrence -- "...so offhand that even the most skeptical reader can accept it.") Her characters' lives are transformed by uncontrollable forces -- love and loss, sorrow and bliss, danger and death.

Hoffman's 1997 novel Here on Earth was selected as an Oprah Book Club pick, but even without Winfrey's powerful endorsement, her books have become huge bestsellers -- including three that have been adapted for the movies: Practical Magic (1995), The River King (2000), and her YA fable Aquamarine (2001).

Hoffman is a breast cancer survivor; and like many people who consider themselves blessed with luck, she believes strongly in giving back. For this reason, she donated her advance from her 1999 short story collection Local Girls to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA.

Good To Know

  • Hoffman has written a number of children's books, including Fireflies: A Winter's Tale(1999), Horsefly (2000), and Moondog (2004).

  • Aquamarine was written for Hoffman's best friend, Jo Ann, who dreamed of the freedom of mermaids as she battled brain cancer.

  • Here on Earth is a modern version of Hoffman's favorite novel, Wuthering Heights.

  • Hoffman has been honored with the Massachusetts Book Award for her teen novel Incantation.
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      1. Hometown:
        Boston, Massachusetts
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 16, 1952
      2. Place of Birth:
        New York, New York
      1. Education:
        B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974
      2. Website:

    Read an Excerpt

    Dear Diary

    One 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 me out. Well, we rushed to the back door and did exactly that. We experienced a miracle and now we're looking for more, although Franconia, the town we live in, is not known for such things. Jill and I have known each other our whole lives. One house separates our houses but we act as if it doesn't exist. We met before we were born and we'll probably still know each other after we die. At least, that's the way we're planning it.


    My mother and I left for Atlantic City so quickly I didn't have time to call Jill. We told people we were on our way to visit an old aunt, but really our departure had something to do with love, or the lack of it, and the aunt doesn't even exist. I know other people whose mothers suddenly pack up when their fathers drink or scream, but for us this is more serious. My mother doesn't do things like go to Atlantic City. She doesn't order room service and cry. She once told me that anyone who gets married had better like herself, because there's nobody else in this world that she'll ever really know, not truly.
    We stayed in our room in Atlantic City for three days, and didn't go outside once, thanks to room service. We ate like pigs and didn't even bother to brush our teeth until my mother's cousin Margot, who got a divorce last summer and changed the color of her hair to give herself an emotional lift, came to get us. She drove to New Jersey in the Ford Mustang convertible that she refused to let her ex have, since he'd taken her very soul and raked it over red-hot coals.
    "Get dressed right now," she told us.
    We were wearing our bathrobes and watching an old cowboy movie, which, for some reason, made my mother cry. Maybe it was all those men on horseback who were so steadfast and loyal. Their own men had disappointed them, but somehow Margot and my mother both had hope for improvement. Frankly, I had more faith in the horses.
    "I mean now, Frances," Margot said, and because she meant business, my mother actually dressed and put on some lipstick and we went to a Chinese restaurant where the drinks came with little paper umbrellas, which I kept as a souvenir.
    Listen to me, Gretel, Margot told me when we'd gone back to the room to pack and my mother was finally out of earshot. When a marriage breaks up, it's the children who suffer, so baby, hold on tight. That's why Margot was relieved that she and Tony had never had children, although she became teary whenever she saw a baby.
    "Margot is my best friend, but she's completely full of baloney," my mother whispered as we were throwing our suitcases into the trunk. "Take it all with a grain of salt. Maybe even a whole shaker."
    Say what you want about the Mustang, it may be gorgeous, but it has very little trunk space. I had to sit in the back seat with the hair dryer and the makeup case on my lap all the way to Franconia, but that didn't stop me from keeping my fingers crossed and wishing we'd wind up someplace other than home.


    We're in Florida for one week, the week when the turtles die on the beach and there are jellyfish in the ocean. As soon as we checked into the hotel, my brother, Jason, who likes to pretend he's not part of our family, went out to study tide pools and no one has seen him since. My parents are here to try to revitalize their marriage, which seems a pretty impossible feat to all outside observers. Gretel honey, don't get high hopes, Margot had already warned me when she took me shopping for a bathing suit, a mission which can give anyone with a less than perfect body a complete nervous breakdown. When it's over, it's over, Margot told me, and I had the distinct feeling that she was right.
    Long before the plane touched down in Miami we could hear our parents arguing, and at the hotel they locked themselves in their room. If you ask me, working so hard at being married can backfire. It certainly is making my father nastier than usual. Not that his bad temper affects me. I keep my own counsel. I go my own way. I order room service and eat Linzer tortes and shrimp scampi alone in the room I was supposed to be sharing with Jason, not that he was ever planning to show up. Even though I was across the hall from my parents, I could still hear them fighting.


    I went out to the beach late, later than I'd be allowed to if anyone knew I was alive. That's where I met Jonathan Rabbit, who is now in love with me. He is known as Jack Rabbit, which makes me laugh out loud. Doesn't it figure that the boy who fell for me would be a rodent? He lives in Atlanta and is in the ninth grade, and frankly he's terribly boring. I let him kiss me once, but believe me, I did not hear bells. I only heard the jellyfish sloshing around in the water and the noisy beat of Jack Rabbit's heart.
    Florida didn't do anything for my family, but at least it's starting to be spring. Jill and I are keeping our eyes open for miracles. Jack Rabbit calls me constantly and that is something of a miracle. He writes so often you'd think his fingers would start to cramp up. I bring his letters to school, so everyone is well aware that I have a boyfriend in Atlanta. They'll never meet him. They'll never know it's actually possible for a boy to be so boring you'd agree to kiss him just to get him to shut up. I should get paid to listen to him when he calls on the phone. I should get a dollar fifty an hour. Minimum.
    Jill told me that when you're really in love, you know right away. I'm not exactly sure how this happens. Is it like a flash of lightning? Like an angel tapping you on the shoulder? Or is it similar to choosing a puppy? You think you're picking the cutest one, but really you wind up going home with the one who keeps insisting on climbing into your lap. That's how we got our dog, Revolver. We thought he was so crazy about us, but it turned out that Labrador retrievers adore everyone. Well, maybe that's what love is, a state of mind ready to grace anyone willing to accept it. Anyone who cares.


    School's out. Hurray. Life, however, is still so boring that I'm writing to Jack Rabbit every day. I go to the pool with Jill and take along my notebook and write until I think I'm going blind, then jump into the deep end. We are not going on vacation because no one in my house is talking to each other, so going anywhere together is definitely out. My brother's on the summer science team at the high school, so he's never home. My father is on an exercise kick and has joined a gym, so he's never around either.
    My mother and Margot and I spend a lot of time going to movies. It's dark and it's cool and no one knows if you're crying, except for the person sitting directly beside you. Margot buys me anything I want, even Jordan almonds, which are so terrible for your teeth. She's the kind of person who knows about love. She has men calling her in the middle of the night, but they're all no good, or so she says. Just like Jill, she insists she'll know when she meets the right man. But unlike Jill, she tells me exactly what love's evidence is. I'll just want to kiss him till I die. To me, this doesn't sound like something to hope for, but people seem to hope for it all the same.


    Jill is camping with her parents, and has sent me a postcard that it has happened. The miracle we've been searching for, the great event, the angel's secret. It's love, it really is. It's the boy in the tent next to hers who she sneaks out to meet after her parents are asleep. I sit on my front stoop while Jill is away and think things over. I've smartened up and am no longer waiting for the mailman. Jack Rabbit isn't writing anymore. He went to camp to be a junior counselor and I guess he broke his arm or fell in love with somebody new. Doesn't it figure that I would miss his letters like crazy? Sometimes I read the old ones late at night, and I wonder what was I thinking when I got them. How could I have thought he was boring? Well, I'm the boring one now. When Jill comes back I may have to lie to her. I may tell her Jack Rabbit died in a canoeing accident. My name was the last word he said, or so they tell me. My name brought him comfort with his last dying breath.

    Jill and I are not in the same class at school. We never are. The administration doesn't want people who like each other to be together. They think it builds character when they stick people who hate one another in the same room, day after day, and nobody winds up getting killed or maimed. I'm not supposed to know that Jill's mother is seeing a psychiatrist, just as Jill is not supposed to know my parents are no longer sleeping in the same room. My mother spends her nights on a quilt on my floor, and she doesn't cry until she thinks I'm asleep.
    Recently, Margot and I went out for ice cream. We had butterscotch sundaes with vanilla ice cream. Margot asked for my advice. She had spotted my father at an expensive restaurant, the kind he'd never take us to, with some woman she'd never seen before and she didn't know whether or not to tell my mother. I have never been much of a tattletale myself, although I understand that there are times when the truth serves its purpose. This didn't seem to be one of those times. For all we knew, this woman could be some business associate, although Margot and I probably would have both been willing to bet our lives that she wasn't.
    Don't tell. That was the advice I came up with. My mother was already crying and sleeping on the floor, what good would the truth do her now? Margot didn't eat any of her sundae, and when she offered it to me I realized I was sick to my stomach. I think I've pretty much figured out that in this world, it's better to stick to hot fudge.


    On Halloween Jill wore all black and made ears out of felt which she glued to a plastic headband. She was a black cat. She had a tail that was braided out of three silk scarves. I borrowed thirty silver bangle bracelets from my grandmother. I was a fortune-teller. We should have suspected something when we saw the moon. It was orange and so big we couldn't believe it. It was like we could take one big step, and there we'd be: moon girls who had fallen off the rim of the world. My brother laughed at us. Weren't we a little too old for trick-or-treating? Well of course we were, but we didn't care. We went up and down the block, collecting candy; then we walked beyond the high school through the field so we could smoke cigarettes beside the creek. Jill had stolen the cigarettes from her mother's purse, and I had gotten the matches from my grandmother.
    "As long as you're not smoking cigarettes," my grandmother had said to me, which pretty much ruined the whole thing. I couldn't enjoy a single puff. Grandma Frieda was visiting for the weekend and she had the ability to put a hex on any form of high jinks. She was sleeping on my floor too, and it was getting pretty crowded there in my room. I could never find my sneakers. I couldn't find my underwear. Every night, as I fell asleep, I'd hear bits of whispered conversation, and every single one seemed to include the word sorrow.
    Jill had been practicing and knew how to blow smoke rings. She was blowing a misty ring when some guys from the high school intent on trouble approached. Jill looked older than she was, and even in costume, you could tell she was beautiful. The high school guys tried to kiss her, and when she refused, they grabbed her. The whole thing happened so fast I just sat there, as though I were the audience and the whole thing was a play. And then it wasn't. I hit one of the guys, and all of my silver bracelets were so heavy he fell backwards. The shock of me smashing one of them gave us time to run. We ran and ran, like we really could get to the moon if we had to. We ran until we turned into smoke; we could float across lawns and drift under windows and doors.
    "I can't believe you did that," Jill said when we finally made it home. She had lost her tail and her ears, but her face was shining. "You hit him."
    I felt great for days.


    We don't do holidays. We go to my grandma Frieda's for Passover, but we skip Chanukah, which my father insists is trivial, and Thanksgiving, which he considers a meaningless ritual. We do, however, spend every Christmas at Margot's house. It's a holiday she feels entitled to celebrate since she was married to Tony Molinaro for all those years. My father never goes to Margot's, and this year Jason wasn't there either. It was just us, and we decorated the tree with all of Tony's mother's beautiful old ornaments. There's an angel that's always been my favorite, fashioned out of silvery glass. When Tony's mother was alive she assured me it would bring good luck to whoever hung it on the tree. Tony's mother always preferred Margot to her own son, and when they broke up she took to her bed and was dead by the following spring.
    Even after Margot and Tony divorced, Margot always included her ex-mother-in-law in the festivities. Tony's mother must have been at least ninety. Her hands shook as she held out the angel. "Here's the thing about luck," she told me on her last Christmas. "You don't know if it's good or bad until you have some perspective."
    This year we made a toast to the old lady and Margot actually cried. Right as we finished the tree, snow started to fall. We all rushed to the front window to look. It was the kind of snow that you hardly ever see, so heavy and beautiful you fall in love with winter, even though you know you'll have to shovel in the morning.
    Margot had made a turkey with stuffing, a noodle kugel, and a white cake topped with coconut that looked like the snow outside. After dinner, she and my mother put on aprons and did the dishes and laughed. I let them listen to Elvis's Blue Christmas; I hardly ever saw my mother having a good time, so how could I complain?
    In Jill's family Christmas was a big deal, and I knew when I went over to her house in the morning she'd have a dozen great presents to show me and I'd have to try not to be jealous. Jill and I had given each other bottles of White Musk, our favorite scent. I envied Jill just about everything, but I didn't feel jealous right then, listening to Elvis in Margot's house. Truthfully, there was nowhere else I'd rather be. Lucky for us, Margot lived right around the corner from us. Her house was our house, and vice versa, unless my father was at home. Margot and my mother intended to be neighbors forever; they had dozens of plans, but not all of their plans were working out.
    I'd overheard my father talking on the phone. He was intending to leave as soon as the weather got better. As soon as he could break the news to us, he'd be gone. He was in a holding pattern, that's what he said, but he wasn't holding on to us, that much was certain. I didn't tell my mother what I'd learned. I didn't tell anyone. I wanted to see Margot and my mother dance in the kitchen when the dishes were done and drying on the rack. I wanted to see them throw their aprons on the floor.
    That night, when we walked home, my mother put her arm around me and told me to wish on a star. She still believed in things like that. We stood there in the snow, and try as I might, I didn't see a single star. But I lied. I said that I did, and I wished anyway. We stood there while my mother tried in vain to see that same star. My fingers were freezing, so I put my hands in my pockets. The angel was there. I knew that if I tried to thank Margot, she'd tell me to cut it out, she'd say it was nothing, but it was definitely something to me.
    It was late, but we could hear traffic on the Southern State Parkway, even though it was Christmas, and snowing so hard. You had to wonder who all these people in their cars were leaving behind and who they were driving toward, and if they knew that in the distance, the echo of their tires on the asphalt sounded like a river, and that to someone like me, it could seem like the miracle I'd been looking for.

    Reprinted from LOCAL GIRLS by Alice Hoffman by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by Alice Hoffman.
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    Table of Contents

    Dear Diary 1
    Rose Red 15
    Flight 29
    Gretel 39
    Tell the Truth 51
    How to Talk to the Dead 61
    Fate 75
    Bake at 350° 87
    True Confession 99
    The Rest of Your Life 119
    The Boy Who Wrestled with Angels 151
    Examining the Evidence 145
    Devotion 157
    Still Among the Living 165
    Local Girls 181
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    First Chapter

    Chapter One


    One 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 me out. Well, we rushed to the back door and did exactly that. We experienced a miracle and now we're looking for more, although Franconia, the town we live in, is not known for such things. Jill and I have known each other our whole lives. One house separates our houses but we act as if it doesn't exist. We met before we were born and we'll probably still know each other after we die. At least, that's the way we're planning it.


    My mother and I left for Atlantic City so quickly I didn't have time to call Jill. We told people we were on our way to visit an old aunt, but really our departure had something to do with love, or the lack of it, and the aunt doesn't even exist. I know other people whose mothers suddenly pack up when their fathers drink or scream, but for us this is more serious. My mother doesn't do things like go to Atlantic City. She doesn't order room service and cry. She once told me that anyone who gets married had better like herself, because there's nobody else in this world that she'll ever really know, not truly.

        We stayed in our room in Atlantic City for three days, and didn't go outside once, thanks to room service. We ate like pigs and didn't even bother to brush our teeth until my mother's cousin Margot, who got a divorce last summer and changed the color of her hair to give herself an emotional lift, came to get us. She drove to New Jersey in the Ford Mustang convertible that she refused to let her ex have, since he'd taken her very soul and raked it over redhot coals.

        "Get dressed right now," she told us.

        We were wearing our bathrobes and watching an old cowboy movie, which, for some reason, made my mother cry. Maybe it was all those men on horseback who were so steadfast and loyal. Their own men had disappointed them, but somehow Margot and my mother both had hope for improvement. Frankly, I had more faith in the horses.

        "I mean now, Frances," Margot said, and because she meant business, my mother actually dressed and put on some lipstick and we went to a Chinese restaurant where the drinks came with little paper umbrellas, which I kept as a souvenir.

        Listen to me, Gretel, Margot told me when we'd gone back to the room to pack and my mother was finally out of earshot. When a marriage breaks up, it's the children who suffer, so baby, hold on tight. That's why Margot was relieved that she and Tony had never had children, although she became teary whenever she saw a baby.

        "Margot is my best friend, but she's completely full of baloney," my mother whispered as we were throwing our suitcases into the trunk. "Take it all with a grain of salt. Maybe even a whole shaker."

        Say what you want about the Mustang, it may be gorgeous, but it has very little trunk space. I had to sit in the back seat with the hair dryer and the makeup case on my lap all the way to Franconia, but that didn't stop me from keeping my fingers crossed and wishing we'd wind up someplace other than home.


    We're in Florida for one week, the week when the turtles die on the beach and there are jellyfish in the ocean. As soon as we checked into the hotel, my brother, Jason, who likes to pretend he's not part of our family, went out to study tide pools and no one has seen him since. My parents are here to try to revitalize their marriage, which seems a pretty impossible feat to all outside observers. Gretel honey, don't get high hopes, Margot had already warned me when she took me shopping for a bathing suit, a mission which can give anyone with a less than perfect body a complete nervous breakdown. When it's over, it's over, Margot told me, and I had the distinct feeling that she was right.

        Long before the plane touched down in Miami we could hear our parents arguing, and at the hotel they locked themselves in their room. If you ask me, working so hard at being married can backfire. It certainly is making my father nastier than usual. Not that his bad temper affects me. I keep my own counsel. I go my own way. I order room service and eat Linzer tortes and shrimp scampi alone in the room I was supposed to be sharing with Jason, not that he was ever planning to show up. Even though I was across the hall from my parents, I could still hear them fighting.


    I went out to the beach late, later than I'd be allowed to if anyone knew I was alive. That's where I met Jonathan Rabbit, who is now in love with me. He is known as Jack Rabbit, which makes me laugh out loud. Doesn't it figure that the boy who fell for me would be a rodent? He lives in Atlanta and is in the ninth grade, and frankly he's terribly boring. I let him kiss me once, but believe me, I did not hear bells. I only heard the jellyfish sloshing around in the water and the noisy beat of Jack Rabbit's heart.


    Florida didn't do anything for my family, but at least it's starting to be spring. Jill and I are keeping our eyes open for miracles. Jack Rabbit calls me constantly and that is something of a miracle. He writes so often you'd think his fingers would start to cramp up. I bring his letters to school, so everyone is well aware that I have a boyfriend in Atlanta. They'll never meet him. They'll never know it's actually possible for a boy to be so boring you'd agree to kiss him just to get him to shut up. I should get paid to listen to him when he calls on the phone. I should get a dollar fifty an hour. Minimum.

        Jill told me that when you're really in love, you know right away. I'm not exactly sure how this happens. Is it like a flash of lightning? Like an angel tapping you on the shoulder? Or is it similar to choosing a puppy? You think you're picking the cutest one, but really you wind up going home with the one who keeps insisting on climbing into your lap. That's how we got our dog, Revolver. We thought he was so crazy about us, but it turned out that Labrador retrievers adore everyone. Well, maybe that's what love is, a state of mind ready to grace anyone willing to accept it. Anyone who cares.


    School's out. Hurray. Life, however, is still so boring that I'm writing to Jack Rabbit every day. I go to the pool with Jill and take along my notebook and write until I think I'm going blind, then jump into the deep end. We are not going on vacation because no one in my house is talking to each other, so going anywhere together is definitely out. My brother's on the summer science team at the high school, so he's never home. My father is on an exercise kick and has joined a gym, so he's never around either.

        My mother and Margot and I spend a lot of time going to movies. It's dark and it's cool and no one knows if you're crying, except for the person sitting directly beside you. Margot buys me anything I want, even Jordan almonds, which are so terrible for your teeth. She's the kind of person who knows about love. She has men calling her in the middle of the night, but they're all no good, or so she says. Just like Jill, she insists she'll know when she meets the right man. But unlike Jill, she tells me exactly what love's evidence is. I'll just want to kiss him till I die. To me, this doesn't sound like something to hope for, but people seem to hope for it all the same.


    Jill is camping with her parents, and has sent me a postcard that it has happened. The miracle we've been searching for, the great event, the angel's secret. It's love, it really is. It's the boy in the tent next to hers who she sneaks out to meet after her parents are asleep. I sit on my front stoop while Jill is away and think things over. I've smartened up and am no longer waiting for the mailman. Jack Rabbit isn't writing anymore. He went to camp to be a junior counselor and I guess he broke his arm or fell in love with somebody new. Doesn't it figure that I would miss his letters like crazy? Sometimes I read the old ones late at night, and I wonder what was I thinking when I got them. How could I have thought he was boring? Well, I'm the boring one now. When Jill comes back I may have to lie to her. I may tell her Jack Rabbit died in a canoeing accident. My name was the last word he said, or so they tell me. My name brought him comfort with his last dying breath.


    Jill and I are not in the same class at school. We never are. The administration doesn't want people who like each other to be together. They think it builds character when they stick people who hate one another in the same room, day after day, and nobody winds up getting killed or maimed. I'm not supposed to know that Jill's mother is seeing a psychiatrist, just as Jill is not supposed to know my parents are no longer sleeping in the same room. My mother spends her nights on a quilt on my floor, and she doesn't cry until she thinks I'm asleep.

        Recently, Margot and I went out for ice cream. We had butterscotch sundaes with vanilla ice cream. Margot asked for my advice. She had spotted my father at an expensive restaurant, the kind he'd never take us to, with some woman she'd never seen before and she didn't know whether or not to tell my mother. I have never been much of a tattletale myself, although I understand that there are times when the truth serves its purpose. This didn't seem to be one of those times. For all we knew, this woman could be some business associate, although Margot and I probably would have both been willing to bet our lives that she wasn't.

        Don't tell. That was the advice I came up with. My mother was already crying and sleeping on the floor, what good would the truth do her now? Margot didn't eat any of her sundae, and when she offered it to me I realized I was sick to my stomach. I think I've pretty much figured out that in this world, it's better to stick to hot fudge.


    On Halloween Jill wore all black and made ears out of felt which she glued to a plastic headband. She was a black cat. She had a tail that was braided out of three silk scarves. I borrowed thirty silver bangle bracelets from my grandmother. I was a fortune-teller. We should have suspected something when we saw the moon. It was orange and so big we couldn't believe it. It was like we could take one big step, and there we'd be: moon girls who had fallen off the rim of the world. My brother laughed at us. Weren't we a little too old for trick-or-treating? Well of course we were, but we didn't care. We went up and down the block, collecting candy; then we walked beyond the high school through the field so we could smoke cigarettes beside the creek. Jill had stolen the cigarettes from her mother's purse, and I had gotten the matches from my grandmother.

        "As long as you're not smoking cigarettes," my grandmother had said to me, which pretty much ruined the whole thing. I couldn't enjoy a single puff. Grandma Frieda was visiting for the weekend and she had the ability to put a hex on any form of high jinks. She was sleeping on my floor too, and it was getting pretty crowded there in my room. I could never find my sneakers. I couldn't find my underwear. Every night, as I fell asleep, I'd hear bits of whispered conversation, and every single one seemed to include the word sorrow.

        Jill had been practicing and knew how to blow smoke rings. She was blowing a misty ring when some guys from the high school intent on trouble approached. Jill looked older than she was, and even in costume, you could tell she was beautiful. The high school guys tried to kiss her, and when she refused, they grabbed her. The whole thing happened so fast I just sat there, as though I were the audience and the whole thing was a play. And then it wasn't. I hit one of the guys, and all of my silver bracelets were so heavy he fell backwards. The shock of me smashing one of them gave us time to run. We ran and ran, like we really could get to the moon if we had to. We ran until we turned into smoke; we could float across lawns and drift under windows and doors.

        "I can't believe you did that," Jill said when we finally made it home. She had lost her tail and her ears, but her face was shining. "You hit him."

        I felt great for days.


    We don't do holidays. We go to my grandma Frieda's for Passover, but we skip Chanukah, which my father insists is trivial, and Thanksgiving, which he considers a meaningless ritual. We do, however, spend every Christmas at Margot's house. It's a holiday she feels entitled to celebrate since she was married to Tony Molinaro for all those years. My father never goes to Margot's, and this year Jason wasn't there either. It was just us, and we decorated the tree with all of Tony's mother's beautiful old ornaments. There's an angel that's always been my favorite, fashioned out of silvery glass. When Tony's mother was alive she assured me it would bring good luck to whoever hung it on the tree. Tony's mother always preferred Margot to her own son, and when they broke up she took to her bed and was dead by the following spring.

        Even after Margot and Tony divorced, Margot always included her ex-mother-in-law in the festivities. Tony's mother must have been at least ninety. Her hands shook as she held out the angel. "Here's the thing about luck," she told me on her last Christmas. "You don't know if it's good or bad until you have some perspective."

        This year we made a toast to the old lady and Margot actually cried. Right as we finished the tree, snow started to fall. We all rushed to the front window to look. It was the kind of snow that you hardly ever see, so heavy and beautiful you fall in love with winter, even though you know you'll have to shovel in the morning.

        Margot had made a turkey with stuffing, a noodle kugel, and a white cake topped with coconut that looked like the snow outside. After dinner, she and my mother put on aprons and did the dishes and laughed. I let them listen to Elvis's Blue Christmas; I hardly ever saw my mother having a good time, so how could I complain?

        In Jill's family Christmas was a big deal, and I knew when I went over to her house in the morning she'd have a dozen great presents to show me and I'd have to try not to be jealous. Jill and I had given each other bottles of White Musk, our favorite scent. I envied Jill just about everything, but I didn't feel jealous right then, listening to Elvis in Margot's house. Truthfully, there was nowhere else I'd rather be. Lucky for us, Margot lived right around the corner from us. Her house was our house, and vice versa, unless my father was at home. Margot and my mother intended to be neighbors forever; they had dozens of plans, but not all of their plans were working out.

        I'd overheard my father talking on the phone. He was intending to leave as soon as the weather got better. As soon as he could break the news to us, he'd be gone. He was in a holding pattern, that's what he said, but he wasn't holding on to us, that much was certain. I didn't tell my mother what I'd learned. I didn't tell anyone. I wanted to see Margot and my mother dance in the kitchen when the dishes were done and drying on the rack. I wanted to see them throw their aprons on the floor.

        That night, when we walked home, my mother put her arm around me and told me to wish on a star. She still believed in things like that. We stood there in the snow, and try as I might, I didn't see a single star. But I lied. I said that I did, and I wished anyway. We stood there while my mother tried in vain to see that same star. My fingers were freezing, so I put my hands in my pockets. The angel was there. I knew that if I tried to thank Margot, she'd tell me to cut it out, she'd say it was nothing, but it was definitely something to me.

        It was late, but we could hear traffic on the Southern State Parkway, even though it was Christmas, and snowing so hard. You had to wonder who all these people in their cars were leaving behind and who they were driving toward, and if they knew that in the distance, the echo of their tires on the asphalt sounded like a river, and that to someone like me, it could seem like the miracle I'd been looking for.

    Read More Show Less

    Interviews & Essays

    On Thursday, June 17th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Alice Hoffman to discuss Local Girls.

    Moderator: Welcome, Alice Hoffman! Thank you for joining us online this evening to chat about your new book, Local Girls. How are you doing tonight?

    Alice Hoffman: I am fine. Thank you for having me here.


    Andrew D. from New York City: There is much talk among the characters about fate and luck, yet in addition to the happenings beyond control cancer, many of the characters are forced to pay for their decisions and actions. Do you feel fate or action/consequences has a stronger pull? Or do they work in tandem?

    Alice Hoffman: That is such a good question; unfortunately, I don't know the answer. I guess I feel they work together and that you can try to kind of carve out your own fate, but that is all you can do -- try.


    T. Greenwood from Ocean Beach, CA: Your prose is incredibly lyrical. I am curious who your favorite writers are...and do you read when you are working on a book? Are you influenced/inspired by the language of specific authors?

    Alice Hoffman: I think when I am working on a book, I try not to read at all. I have a rhythm, and I don't want to interrupt it with the rhythm of anybody else's prose. I was influenced primarily by what I read in my childhood, mostly fairy tales. But at this point, I only read when I am on vacation.


    Pamela Rice Hahn from Ohio: The last paragraph of Practical Magic except for the part about pepper on your mashed potatoes is a perfect example of the wonderful way you mix folklore and emotion in your stories. I get the sense you believe personality to not only be a result of the environment but that the environment is a very real part of the person, too. Is that the case?

    Alice Hoffman: I guess I always feel that the environment has a life of its own, and when I am writing, the houses, weather, et cetara are almost as if they are characters for me. They are a living part of the story for me.


    MMuntz@yahoo.com from Oyster Bay, NY: This book could have taken on epic form; there are several well-developed and important characters, and they are followed over several years. Instead, it seems to capture intensely detailed snapshots of several important moments in their lives. The effect is refreshing, but do you have any regrets about not expanding the story further?

    Alice Hoffman: I think what you say is very interesting, and thank you very much -- that was my goal, to take moments of people's lives. The book started out as a single short story, and once I wrote that story, I realized a universe had been created, and I wasn't done with the characters. I have always been interested in the form of interrelated stories, and for me this book is almost a novel, but you are right -- I wanted to take pieces of their lives, almost as if the book were a puzzle, and when you put all the pieces together, it formed a life.


    Moderator: What are your plans for your summer vacation?

    Alice Hoffman: I am going to a little farm that I have and am going to write the second half of my novel and watch the birds.


    Jimmy from Albany, NY: I have recently returned from a trip to Europe. In Europe I was asked numerous times about Long Island. It appears that many overseas and even here in the States have this Fitzgerald-esque view of Long Island as this paradise a stone's throw from NYC. What to you are the best characteristics of Long Island? And what are some unique qualities about Long Island that you treasure?

    Alice Hoffman: That is funny, because there used to be this attitude that it was a Fitzgerald place with money and suburban life, then it took a wrong turn with Joey Buttafucco and Amy Fisher. Suddenly there was this other side of Long Island, a side I was more familiar with growing up there. What is interesting about Long Island is that it is like Los Angeles in that it has always been a place of dreams, but I am not really aware of the European sensibility of what it means to them. To me it means a lot of Burger Kings.


    Pac87@aol.com from xx: It seems as though certain decisions on the part of the characters might have directed their lives in a more productive manner. To what degree are they victims of fate?

    Alice Hoffman: I am not sure of the answer to that. I think it is a combination -- partially fate, illness, disaster, love, disease, etc. And partially it is the way characters react to the situations. I always think two different characters can be in the same situation and react very differently. In Local Girls, I was not sure what was going to happen, which was what made it so interesting to me -- to go on that journey with them.


    Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: The notion of a tight-lipped family being eaten away internally by problems has traditionally been a southern Gothic stereotype, yet Gretel's family seems to fit that mold rather well. Was this a conscious genre-busting decision? Or is a Long Island life more similar to that of Faulkner's Compson family than fiction would lead you to believe?

    Alice Hoffman: I don't think this family is tight-lipped. They seem to scream, rant, and rave, et cetera. For me, it was not a conscious decision. It just sort of came alive for me. I realized halfway through that the model was more Hansel And Gretel than Faulkner. It feels to me as if I am telling a modern fairy tale about a brother and sister lost in suburbia.


    Lenea734@aol.com from Plano, TX: By the conclusion, Jill seems to have the potential to follow in the same cycles as the characters of the previous generation, but Gretel seems too cautiously aware to fall prey to her family's mistakes. She also ends up with a tattoo symbolizing courage. Gretel spends her youth obtaining that courage in small steps. Is it her courage that keeps her from repeating familial mistakes?

    Alice Hoffman: Interesting question. Part of me feels they are in it together, and even though they make very different choices, they both succeed in the end. Jill, who seems as if she is ruining her life, does exactly what her mother doesn't want her to do, which is get pregnant very young. They both don't follow the traditional path set out for them, and that is just because different people find their happiness in different ways.


    Elizabeth from Michigan: How do you feel about the filmed versions of your books?

    Alice Hoffman: There has only been one -- "Practical Magic" -- and I liked it very much. I thought the women in it were terrific. It is not the book, but it is fun to see.


    Marianna from Stratford, CT: Ms. Hoffman, I've been an ardent fan of yours since 1983, when I read Illumination Night. I have bought dozens of copies of that book for friends because it does such a masterful job describing agoraphobia. Did you do a lot of psychiatric research? It's an amazing portrait.

    Alice Hoffman: Thank you so much -- I really appreciate that. I am not one who does much for research. That book took place in Martha's Vineyard, and I had never been there before, until afterward, and it turned out to be very accurate. I did some research on agoraphobia, but I am happy it came out accurate. Thank you for that comment.


    Nicki Britton from Brooklyn, NY: A comic sense arises amidst the chaos in these characters' lives. Do you think laughter can be a healing force in the face of tragedy?

    Alice Hoffman: Absolutely! I think that is part of the reason I wrote this book; it was a dark part in my life, and I wrote it to remind myself of all the reasons to live, and one of those reasons was laughter and remembering how to enjoy yourself.


    T. Greenwood from Ocean Beach, CA: You are so prolific. Do you write full-time?

    Alice Hoffman: I do write full-time, and I write every day, but I have been doing it for 25 years, so I don't know if I am prolific or just old.


    Niki from Niki_palek@yahoo.com: A sense of supernatural surfaces here as in Practical Magic, when the ghost of the grandmother appears. But this instance occurs during a shift of perspective from the first to third person. Was there a particular reason for taking Gretel out of the role of storyteller when her grandmother's ghost appears?

    Alice Hoffman: It wasn't conscious, but what I wanted to do with these stories is to give an overview of this family, and I think we could really see Gretel if we saw her from every perspective, from first and third person. These stories just felt right being told in this manner, and that story just felt right being told that way.


    Pam from Ohio: I'm curious. When you write, do you watch your stories unfold much like you watch those birds? Is it a film that you "transcribe" as you create, characters who speak to you, or both?

    Alice Hoffman: I think I see it as it happens. For me it is the process of writing that moves the fiction. I start with certain elements like characters or place, but when the novel starts to come alive I almost feel as if I am channeling it. Then for other drafts I have to do work, but the first time around it is as if I am playing the piano and the song just comes out.


    Kathy from Bloomingdale, IL: Hi, Alice. Will you be appearing in the Chicago area anytime soon for a book signing/reading to promote Local Girls?

    Alice Hoffman: Thanks, I wish I were, but I am not touring with this book. I am working on another book. Sorry.


    Corinne from Cardiff, CA: Who is Alice Hoffman's biggest influence?

    Alice Hoffman: I have to say my biggest literary hero is Grace Paley. I looked to her in both literature and the social actions she was involved with. I was very influenced by the children's books that I read.


    Atalya from Cardiff, CA: The second shift away from Gretel's voice occurs when she falls in love for the first time. Throughout her narration, she displays a keen sense of detail -- is she untrustworthy as a narrator when consumed by love?

    Alice Hoffman: I guess probably everybody is untrustworthy when they are consumed by love. Good point!


    Moderator: If the Y2K bug wreaks its havoc, what three books would you make sure you have in your bunker to read by the light of your power generator?

    Alice Hoffman: The Catcher In The Rye, Mary Poppins, and the Bible.


    JWC901@aol.com from NJ: What do you think creates the internal difference between Margot and Jason? She seems to be a fairly positive dreamer, despite repeated disappointments, whereas he was full of promise and allowed his misery to corner him into a life of mediocrity.

    Alice Hoffman: I guess that is part of the puzzle. Margot is just an optimist -- horrible things happen to her and she continues to see good in life, fall in love, et cetera. Jason responds to shakedowns in his life by just shutting down. Partially, I think that is just their natures: One is full of hope and one wasn't.


    Jesa from Portland, Oregon: No question -- just wanted to say thanks for all the great books. I was ill for two months and "discovered" you -- you paint wonderful pictures!

    Alice Hoffman: Thank you so much. I appreciate those kinds words; it means a lot to me.


    Moderator: Thank you, Alice Hoffman! Best of luck with your new book, Local Girls. Before you leave, do you have any closing comments for the online audience?

    Alice Hoffman: I just really appreciate your response, kind words, and the attention you gave my work; it is great to be in touch with you. Thank you for having me here.


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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4.5
    ( 17 )
    Rating Distribution

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    Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 17 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted December 2, 2001

      Alice Hoffman Does It Again

      Although Alice Hoffman is not for everyone, I have acquired a taste for her style and characters. This book does NOT disappoint. As with all of her works, I was sucked in right away and enjoyed the entire ride. I am always sad to finish her books.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted September 22, 2001

      Precious

      This is the first book of Alice Hoffman's I have read and I loved it! She makes you feel the characters' joy and sorrow almost as if it were your own, and with such realism that it's hard to imagine it's fiction. It will touch your heart. I only wish the story was longer!

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted August 7, 2001

      So Much Fun To Read!!!

      I read the whole book at work on one shift. I just couldn't stop! I loved it so much I shipped it to my sister in Arizona, who liked it so much she sent it to my sister-in-law, who sent it to my other sister-in-law. I'm not sure where it is now! My sisers all said the same thing... you just can't put this book down until it's finished. Alice Hoffman is an amazing writer!

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 9, 2010

      Touching Story About Life

      A quick read and with no heavy plot, but still this story was touching in its ability to capture the joys and sorrows of life fully lived. The novel covers an approximately ten year period in a young girl's (Gretel's) life where she experiences the disintegration of her parents' marriage, their subsequent divorce and her father's remarriage to a much younger woman. She lives through her mother's battle with cancer and her death, the loss of her brother to drugs, and the upheaval in her relationship with her best friend Jill, when Jill finds herself pregnant and subsequently married in her junior year in high school. Gretel observes her older cousin Margot's repeated attempts and failures (and ultimately success) in searching for love and Gretel suffers her own broken love affair as well. Despite all the sadness, this was a powerful and upbeat little book that pulls at your heartstrings and champions the romantic hopeful nature that takes both a realistic look at life while refusing to give up on hope.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 23, 2008

      a reviewer

      She had the Family curse. She knew it from the start. She was born with it. Local Girls is about a girl named Gretel Samuelson who goes through a hard life is many emotions. She goes through her mothers divorce, a very cruel neighborhood, and her own brother giving up Harvard for a job at a local Food Star. Her mother dies of cancer and she gets left alone while her best friend is living the life with her husband and two kids. This book is one of the most touching books I have ever read. I recommend this book to readers who think they have it bad because once you read it, you will look at your life a whole lot different. Local Girls is really a message about how you really need to think before you act. There was her brother, Jason who messed up his whole life by choosing to work at the deli department at food star instead of going off to school at Harvard, which he dreamed of since he was in diapers. There is also just being in a family that you know that thing is going to happen by faith. Like when Gretel was in her childhood, she starts to feel the vibe when she lived in a bad neighborhood and her mother gets diagnosis with cancer. But it is really just how you get around it. Gretel lived a horrible life because she did not do anything about it, unlike her cousin Margaret, and doesn¿t realize that her life was horrible until she is so old that she could not change anything. Local girls are about a pour girl named Gretel and how she had to survive her life with so many horrible things happening. When she is a kid, her best friend, Jill, lives right down the street while her brother continues his dream of going to Harvard. Later in high school, her brother graduates but gives up his dream of school and goes and works at Food Star with his dumb girlfriend. She and Jill are still best friends until Jill goes off and marries a dumb guy named Eddie and Gretel gets left alone with Margaret when her mother and brother dies. But soon she would be left alone when Margaret gets married and tries to have a baby. Margaret welcomes Gretel to come live with her until things get better, and she accepts the offer. After a few years, she goes back to Jill¿s house and sees her happy life with her husband and kids. When she spends the night she realizes how good it was when she was young. Local Girls is about a hopeless girl who gets lost in her life when she gets the family curse but doesn¿t try to fix it. This book really gets you to think about how you are so lucky but also makes you feel sorry for all of those people who don¿t have it good. I recommend this book to readers who need the important lesson of how lives your life right.

      1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 17, 2003

      Read this book...it's wonderful!

      Her father divorces her caring mother to marry a younger woman; they move to an upscale part of the neighborhood and can barely be bothered to send the child support check each month. Her once Harvard bound brother takes a turn for the worse when he begins a life of drug use and only comes home to steal money. His best friend, also a good friend of Gretel, disapears. Gret's best friend in the world is pregnant. Her mother suffers a hard life battling cancer. Gretle must survive the endless heartache with only the shoulder of her cousin Margot to lean on. Margot is passionet and in search for love. The book is so involving I read the entire thing in only a couple of hours. It is an easy read but highly recomended by me. It has inspired me to try some more of Alice Hoffman's titles. This was the first of hers I had read and I am hoping for more like this one! This is without a doubt my favorite book!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 29, 2000

      I finished this book in 24 hours!

      when i closed this book, i said aloud, 'this is the best book i've read in a long, long time.'

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 12, 2008

      Life is never fair

      Life is never fair. That is what Gretel and Jill learn while they grow up in Alice Hoffman¿s Local Girls. Gretel¿s family has never been stable, and neither has Jill¿s. Between crazy parents, divorces, death, babies, and the repercussions of each, they learn that life can turn out all right if you have a friend and stick it through. Both girls raised themselves with the help of Margot, Gretel¿s aunt, who chain smokes and never judges. With both their mothers deteriorating, physically and mentally, and no dad that wants to claim them as their own, the girls turn to each other and their romantic high school boyfriends who they hope will change their lives for the better. <BR/><BR/>Hoffman writes with true eloquence and gripping dialogue. I was instantly pulled into the novel, feeling both girls¿ pain and elations. I was so immersed in Local Girls that I felt Jill and Gretel had been my life-long friends and that I was walking through life with them. This book is perfect for anyone who has an intricate life, or anyone who needs a good read on a lazy Saturday. Beautifully written with so much care, this is another top book for my bookshelf.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 29, 2004

      The Break Up Of A Family

      Alice Hoffman's Local Girls, is based on the Samuelson family, of the fictional Long Island town of Franconia. Twelve year old main character Gretel Samuelson learns life can be very hard. After the break up of her parents marriage, her mother, Frances, is diagnosed with cancer. Frances' cousin, Margot, moves in to help Frances take care of Gretel and her older brother, Jason. As time goes by, the three of them helplessly watch Jason's life spiral downwards into the world of drugs. Hoffman, wrote this book straight from the heart. Her characters show courage despite a families' misfortune.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 8, 2001

      I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN

      I never have read an Alice Hoffman book before, but this book took me by suprise. The story was so moving. I cried at the end.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 5, 2001

      HOFFMAN'S RICH PROSE LEAVENED WITH GLISTENING WIT

      In rich prose leavened with glistening wit and rueful perspicacity Alice Hoffman brings us her 12th novel, Local Girls. Skillfully interweaving a series of related vignettes, offered by alternating narrators, the author divines the hearts and minds of a family plagued by loss yet sustained by love. The Local Girls for whom we come to care are Gretel Samuelson, her mother, Franny, her mother's cousin, Margot, 'who got a divorce last summer and changed the color of her hair to give herself an emotional lift,' and Gretel's best friend, Jill. Franny is also divorced, miserably so, spending her nights on a quilt beside her daughter's bed. Home is Franconia, the suburb in which they were 'doomed to live.' It is here that 12-year-old Gretel and Jill sneak out at night to exact vengeance upon those who have offended them - they write with pieces of coal on a tattle-tale shopkeeper's garage door, pour rancid buttermilk into a strict teacher's garbage cans, and spread paint on the prized car of a father who groped them when they babysat. But despite the rewards of retaliation, as Gretel relates, it was a bad summer. Her brother Jason, handsome, ingratiating, and winner of every science award, is headed for Harvard and a brilliant career. But he changed. In Gretel's words, he 'appeared to have undergone a lobotomy.' He'd 'gotten himself a job at the Food Star, in the deli department, and something had shifted. He was starting to seem comfortable in the deli.' He also grew comfortable with drugs, eventually stealing to support his heroin habit. 'What was happening to our family, anyway?' Gretel asks. Her mother becomes ill; her father remarries. Her home is a shambles; the kitchen gives her the shivers as Margot and Franny are beginning a catering business. 'They had both recovered from cancer scares, failed marriages, and lost hope; in their opinion, dirt could wait. That was also the summer Jill became cynical: 'Before that, before all the sickness and heat, she was the sweetest girl you'd ever met. But lately she saw the dark underside of everything...........Everything was bad news in Jill's opinion. Everything was a game you couldn't win.' So it would seem, for Jill discovers she is pregnant by Eddie, 'the boy that everyone wanted, but not for keeps.' 'Gorgeous and stupid,' he is described as one who hadn't been told the earth was round and thought Abraham Lincoln was a brand of toothpaste. When her mother again falls ill, Gretel 'couldn't help but think that the world was a crueler place than anyone had ever dared to suggest. You might even find yourself believing that fair itself was a meaningless concept, one which would only deceive you, in the end.' Lives spliced with comedy and tragedy are the heart of Local Girls. It is a tribute to the power of family, and the strength of redeeming love. Once again, Alice Hoffman has proven herself to be an outstanding chronicler of life's pitfalls and joys.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 25, 2000

      A Book That I Couldn't Put Down!

      I started reading this book at 4:00pm and finished at 6:30pm. A true storyteller, Hoffman intertwines her marvellous gift with characters that never stop giving, to make it an experience you will never forget. A story centered around women, love, and friendhips.

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