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The Locals: A Novel by Jonathan Dee
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The Locals: A Novel

by Jonathan Dee

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Don’t be like the idiots who couldn’t get past the first narrator. Instead, do what I did and flip ahead to see if he stays. He doesn’t. And personally, I don’t understand why he was needed anyway.

Ok, with that out of the way let me tell you my first impression of this book was one of comfort - that I was in the hands of a writer with skill. The prose just lit up my brain somehow. Once I got past the initial narrator that is. What a creepy, misogynist piece of work he was. I was dreading meeting him again, but luckily we don’t and as I said above, I’m not sure why he was necessary. Perhaps as a way to show how undone Mark was and how trusting. 9/11 made us all crazy, but I do agree with the sentiment on page 41 that the people who died weren’t heroes, they were victims. Sad, but just that. This doesn't include fire, police or rescue...those deaths were the deaths of heroes.

Mark is pretty trusting. I mean, how dumb do you have to be to fall for a scam like that. I was investing in the mid-90s and found trustworthy, reputable firms to give my money to. It’s not that hard. Oy.

The small town vibe felt reminiscent of Richard Russo’s books. The relationships are all plausible, intimate and well-drawn, especially the power structure, what there is of it. I found the transitions focusing on one person to another to be smooth and natural. Gerry is a sociopath. Hadi’s civic funding reminded me of Clark Rockefeller’s doings in real-life Cornish NH. I imagined the set up would culminate in the economic implosion of 2008, but it didn’t. All in all it was a good book, but I do have some complaints -

First, the elder Firth situation goes unresolved. Much is made of mom’s worsening alzheimer’s and dad’s anger, but it just slides off the page into nothing. Second, I don’t remember people doing the hyper-local thing in 2003 or so. You know...buying local food and products because they’re local. Third, a restaurant wants to use local ingredients and has a May menu listing tomatoes, eggplant, beets, peppers etc. Stuff you will NEVER get in New England at that time unless you have a huge greenhouse operation.

The characterization of Candace’s unsatisfactory boyfriend on pages 210-11 is so great though. We all have known guys like this -

“Andrew, second-generation owner of the sporting goods store in Howland where Candace bought running shoes and the like, was a classic local type. He thought he knew everything; he was overconfident and condescending and maybe two-thirds as good looking as he thought he was and he had always gotten what he wanted because he was too dumb to understand how much else there was to want, outside of the life he was living, the life he had always lived. The less he knew about something, or someone, the more superior he felt. She longed to undo him.” ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Aug 6, 2018 |
A rich New Yorker moves to a small town and decides, basically as a hobby, to dabble in the town's government for a while. Quietly throwing money around, he inserts himself into the daily fabric of the residents, dabbles a little in surveillance techniques, and then casually and coolly decides to leave when he faces resistance. The town is left in shambles, and the story serves as a metaphor for what happened when the housing bubble burst in 2008. The ending was a little strange, though. ( )
  flourgirl49 | Jul 28, 2018 |
I slogged through this book. Well written with lots of detail about people living in a small Massachusetts town. I couldn’t relate to any of the characters, although he captured the small town experience. Was the message people are self-centered? ( )
  brangwinn | Feb 13, 2018 |
The Locals by Jonathan Dee, a new author for me. I listened to the audio because it made the long list for the Tournament of Books. But unfortunately it didn't make the short list and rightly so.

This book starts at the time of 9/11. A person by the name of Mark Firth is in NYC at the time to meet with a lawyer because he was swindled. The odd thing is that this book starts out with this other man who also lost money. This person is the most nonemphathetic, antisocial, pervert and I almost stopped reading the book. After the first few pages this man is no longer a part of the book. Not sure why he was really necessary. So mostly the protagonist is Mark Firth but not wholly. There is also several people in this small New England town which play parts and I guess that is why the title "The Locals". There are too many characters and they all seem quite negative in one way or another, they drink a lot, get fired for rude behavior. It features this small England town that is basically struggling financially and trying to carve out a niche for itself. It also is a bit of a story of family relationships, parents, sibs and children. It is also political. If I were to pick one word to describe what theme the author was developing, it is "outrage". The New Yorker man that the book starts with is filled with outrage. Most of these New Englanders are filled with outrage. As a book, it doesn't contribute anything significant to literature that is new but it does present the spirt of the age, mood of the current political and social climate because every thing is shouting outrage these days. The plot is adquate but probably could have used a bit of further development. The characters were all terribly flawed. Sometimes you had a bit of something to like about one or two of them but mostly they were just insufferable. It was a bit difficult to read as there were so many characters. The author did make it to the long list for ToB but I don't think this book will go any further than that. Perhaps I am wrong, will see. Style was off putting with the first character but after that it was okay. I don't think the author was doing any kowtowing to political correctness but actually was trying to capture in a fiction what Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis and The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America were saying. Rating: 3.17 ( )
  Kristelh | Jan 22, 2018 |
Bearing a slight resemblance to the novels Tom Perrotta and Richard Russo, the author skewers life in a desirable rural town in the Berkshires. Commencing in NYC on 9/11 with two characters who have been fleeced by a phony investment advisor, the action moves to fictional Howland, Massachusetts, where yet another persona, a hedge funder escaping to his weekend home from the chaos of the wounded city, settles in and ends up absconding with town government for his own amusement.

Dee is wickedly abrasive, which makes for some marvelous quotes, but he's got way too many male and female balls juggling in the richly comical air, and some just get dropped. A good editor should have eliminated a third of them, but this is still a very enjoyable read, especially for those familiar with the area and with the ongoing combativeness of rich New Yorkers vs. struggling locals.

Quotes: "This particular train ran in a straight line away from New York City for two and a half hours and then just stopped in the middle of nowhere as if due to an expiration of interest."

"They both knew their dad would probably prefer a broken storm window he could complain about to one that worked fine."

"The very rich were sometimes thrifty in eccentric, unnecessary ways, just to keep in some kind of emotional touch with the actual value of a dollar."

"Her mom felt like Haley was the face their family showed to the world. It wasn't that she was one of those mothers for whom everything had to be perfect; it was more like, if we aren't raising a happy child together, then what are we doing together at all?"

"The ensemble went right into one of those Sousa marches that everybody instantly recognized but no one knew the name of, that instantly put you in a good mood."

"The land underneath Gerry's tires was invade and tilled and consecrated by men who believed that only the pursuit of one's own interest might multiply into the common good."

And, the last line of the book: "To ask for any redress from the powerful, however small or just, was a tactical mistake. You gave up the only weapon available to you, which was to deprive them of their power to say no." ( )
  froxgirl | Sep 17, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812993225, Hardcover)

A rural working-class New England town electsas its mayor  a New York hedge fund millionaire, in this inspired novel for our times—fiction in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan, with the urgency of Hillbilly Elegy.
 
Mark Firth is a contractor and home restorer in Howland, Massachusetts, who feels opportunity passing his family by. After being swindled by a financial advisor, what future can Mark promise his wife, Karen, and their young daughter, Haley? He finds himself envying the wealthy weekenders in his community whose houses sit empty all winter.
 
Philip Hadi used to be one of these people. But in the nervous days after 9/11 he flees New York and hires Mark to turn his Howland home into a year-round “secure location” from which he can manage billions of dollars of other people’s money. The collision of these two men’s very different worlds—rural vs. urban, middle class vs. wealthy—is the engine of Jonathan Dee’s powerful new novel.
 
Inspired by Hadi, Mark looks around for a surefire investment: the mid-decade housing boom. Over Karen’s objections, and teaming up with his troubled brother, Gerry, Mark starts buying up local property with cheap debt. Then the town’s first selectman dies suddenly, and Hadi volunteers for office. He soon begins subtly transforming Howland in his image—with unexpected results for Mark and his extended family.
 
Here are the dramas of twenty-first-century America—rising inequality, working class decline, a new authoritarianism—played out in the classic setting of some of our greatest novels: the small town. The Locals is that rare work of fiction capable of capturing a fraught American moment in real time.
 
Advance praise for The Locals
 
“There could not be a more timely novel than The Locals. It examines the American self and American selfishness from 9/11 until today. Jonathan Dee has given us a master class in empathy and compassion, a vital book.”—Nathan Hill, author of The Nix
 
“Jonathan Dee’s manner is so forthright, his approach so quietly intelligent and direct, his small-town America with its dreams and ambitions and sense of order and rectitude so familiar, we realize we have acknowledged nothing particularly alarming about our weakening grasp on a functioning democracy. Hiding in plain sight is the blueprint of our decline—our easy corruptibility and willed ignorance, our ethical wobbliness and eagerness to sanitize history. The Locals is an absolutely riveting novel that dares to prod us awake. Whoever has ears let them hear—indeed.”—Joy Williams, author of The Visiting Privilege

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 21 Mar 2017 07:04:12 -0400)

"Mark Firth is a home builder in Howland, Massachusetts in the early 2000s who, after being swindled by a finanical advisor, feels opportunity passing him by. In the paranoid days after 9/11, a New York money manager, Philip Hadi, moves his family to Howland and hires Mark to turn his his house into a "secure location." When Howland's first selectman passes away suddenly, Hadi runs for office, and begins subtly transforming the town in his image. The collision of these two men and their very different worlds -- rural vs urban, middle class vs wealthy -- propels Jonathan Dee's new novel to a haunting conclusion. This is a novel that captures our fraught moment, but is timeless in its depiction of the American family"--… (more)

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