Synopses & Reviews
A deeply moving story of the complicated bond between brother and sister.
Going missing was the only interesting thing my brother had ever done.
Even a decade later, the memories of the year Lydia Pasternak turned sixteen continue to haunt her. As a teenager, Lydia lived in her older brother's shadow. While Danny's athletic skills and good looks established his place with the popular set at school, Lydia's smarts relegated her to the sidelines, where she rolled her eyes at her brother and his meathead friends and suffered his casual cruelty with resigned bewilderment. Though a part of her secretly wished for a return of the easy friendship she and Danny shared as children, another part of her wished Danny would just vanish. And then, one night, he did.
In the year following Danny Pasternak's disappearance, his parents go off the rails, his town buzzes with self-indulgent mourning, and his little sister Lydia finds herself thrust into unwanted celebrity, forced to negotiate her ambivalent — often grudging — grief for a brother she did not particularly like. Suddenly embraced by Danny's old crowd, forgotten by her parents, and drawn into the missing person investigation by her family's intriguing private eye, Lydia both blossoms and struggles to find herself during Danny's absence. But when a trail of clues leads to a shocking outcome in her brother's case, the teenaged Lydia and the adult she will become are irrevocably changed, even now as she reluctantly prepares to return to her hometown.
Relentlessly gripping, often funny, and profoundly moving, The Local News is a powerful exploration of the fraught relationship between a brother and sister and how our siblings define who we are.
"Bright, precocious but socially awkward Lydia Pasternak reports on the aftermath of her older brother's disappearance in Gershow's accomplished debut. Danny was everything Lydia wasn't: at ease with their parents, popular in school, physically imposing, beloved by the opposite sex. Danny went from being Lydia's playmate in their youth to her tormentor in high school, so his disappearance leaves Lydia with some very mixed feelings, one of which is relief. As time goes on and the weekend search parties prove more and more fruitless, Lydia struggles with the fact that her geeky best friend, David, has feelings for her; she also obsesses over the private investigator hired by the family and allows herself to be sucked into the social world Danny once dominated. Lydia's perspective gives this Lovely Bones - esque story line an unflinching quality as she details the emotional damage that reverberates even through her 10-year high school reunion. Gershow's psychologically acute grasp of the mundane, ugly details that accompany tragedy, combined with an understanding of the tragicomedy of high school, make for a stark and merciless narrative, leavened by Lydia's wry insights." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Unusually credible and precise...deftly heartbreaking." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"The Local News is the story of a life created around loss...Not a book you're likely to put down once started, nor to forget once finished, a remarkable achievement." Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"[A] sad, bravely written story that elicits sympathy for the situation rather than any of the characters and demonstrates that not all tragedies have heroes. Heartily recommended..." Library Journal
"Gershow's writing is fluid, her imagery of the mid-'90s concise and compelling, and her story universal." School Library Journal
"The first chapter establishes an adult voice telling the story from a time far past the events detailed, in ways rich with emotion....Gershow, who lives in Eugene, draws on fabulous similes to build moments..." The Oregonian
"Lydia is a refreshingly not-at-all-beautiful, intelligent and witty narrator with a black sense of humor. Her story is unvarnished, lacking in white wash and grittily realistic. The Local News feels understated and elegant, and is highly recommended as an engrossing read." BookReporter.com
Relentlessly gripping, often funny, and profoundly moving, The Local News offers a powerful exploration of the fraught relationship between a brother and sister, revealing how our siblings define who we are.
When fifteen-year-old Lydia Pasternak's popular older brother Danny disappears late one summer night, she unwillingly becomes a celebrity in her community and an afterthought to her bereaved parents. In Danny's absence, Lydia blossoms from a bookish outcast to the center of attention, all while grappling with her grudging grief for a brother she never particularly liked. When an intriguing private investigator enters the picture, Lydia finds herself drawn into the search for clues to Danny's whereabouts. The shocking end to that trail of clues — an end that Lydia never prepares for — will haunt her for the rest of her life. An authentic and at times surprisingly funny dissection of public and private grief, The Local News is an accomplished, affecting debut.
About the Author
Miriam Gershow was a Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin. Her stories have appeared in the Georgia Review, Black Warrior Review, and Quarterly West, among other journals. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Reading Group Guide
1. In the first half of the book, what does Lydia believe happened to Danny? Based on her actions and attitudes, what might she think is the cause of her brother’s disappearance?
2. As Lydia is delivering Missing Person posters through the neighborhood in Chapter 2, she confesses, “In the beginning, the sympathetic attention of strangers was still intoxicating” (page 8). How does Lydia’s response to such attention change throughout the book? Does she remain, on some level, intoxicated by it?
3. What is your opinion of Danny’s friends—namely Tip and Lola—at the start of the book? Does your opinion of them change by the end?
4. What is Lydia’s motivation for getting involved in the investigation of Danny’s disappearance? Why is she so drawn to Denis?
5. What is the significance of the title? We see a newscast with Kirk Donovan early in the book. Are there other meanings to the idea of “the local news?”
6. How would have Lydia’s story been different if her parents had been “clingers” instead of “drifters”?
7. Through the Saturday searches, the school assembly, and shiva, among other times, we see the larger community respond to Danny’s disappearance. How would you characterize the community reaction? And is this reaction a balm or a burden for the Pasternak family and for Lydia, in particular?
8. How might the family and community have reacted differently were Lydia the one to disappear? Do you think there would have been as much drama, sentiment, and grief focused on her absence?
9. Lydia has three distinct best friends through her tenthgrade year—David Nelson, Lola Pepper, and Bayard. What does each of these friendships reveal about Lydia?
10. Danny left a strong impression on everybody around him. He was known as either a bully, a champion, a leader, or a struggling student. Who was the real Danny? How do all of these pieces of his personality fit together?
11. At the end of the interrogation scene between Denis and Lydia, Lydia watches him shrug and notes, “I had no idea what he meant by it. Sorry, Charley? Whoops? All in a day’s work?” (pages 233–234). What do you think Denis means by the shrug—and by the entire interrogation? What are his motivations? Does he truly suspect Lydia of wrongdoing? Is he just doing his job or is something darker at work?
12. In the scene of the near car crash, Lydia says of her father’s sudden reassurances from the passenger seat: “I remembered a little bit that he loved me, so I loved him a little bit back” (page 247). Who has been most guilty of holding back their affections in the Pasternak family? Lydia? Her parents? All equally? Why do you suppose these affections have been so long suppressed?
13. Lydia spends much of her time estranged from other characters in the book. She’s most dramatically estranged from her parents, but soon also grows estranged from David Nelson, and eventually from Denis, Lola Pepper, Tip Reynolds, and everyone else who crosses her path during this year. Does she detach because of the extraordinary circumstances of her brother’s vanishing, or would she have been a profound loner even had Danny not disappeared?
14. There is a twelve-year gap between the year Danny goes missing and the reunion. What do you imagine Lydia’s life was like during those intervening years? How would she have fared during her final two years of high school? How successful were her college years? Her years in D.C.?
15. At the reunion, Lydia says the “real question” is who she and Danny would have been to each other as adults. Do you think their relationship would have changed or would it have remained the same as it had been in adolescence?
16. The idea of “drifting” comes up throughout the book. Lydia’s parents are classified as “drifters.” Lydia lets herself get swept along with Lola’s enthusiasm and Danny’s friends’ attention and Bayard’s bemused incomprehension of America. Lydia wants to feel a bit lost in the end and theorizes that Danny did too. What do you make of this theme of drifting? What is its significance in the story?
17. In the final car ride with David Nelson, Lydia reflects, “There was a part of me that had long curled in on itself and atrophied, perhaps beginning the day Danny slipped unremarkably out the front door, perhaps long before that. I could feel it unfurling now, churning through my watery belly and rising up my throat, coming out my nostrils and my mouth, dragon breath singeing my earlobes and making my face sweat even in the breeze of the AC” (pages 355–356). What exactly is the part of Lydia that had curled up on itself and atrophied? And why is it opening now, in this car ride?
18. The novel ends when Lydia is twenty-eight. Do you think she has, at this point, “recovered” from Danny’s disappearance? Has her mother?
19. In the last sentence, Lydia’s thinking about Danny “jangling with possibility and promise, his future wide open” (page 357), and yet we know his future was grim. What do you think this ending might say about Lydia and her future?