Local Girls

Local Girls

4.4 17
by Alice Hoffman

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

…  See more details below


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

Editorial Reviews

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.

Read More

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Local Girls 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
when i closed this book, i said aloud, 'this is the best book i've read in a long, long time.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
annalise More than 1 year ago
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.

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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.