Read The Locals by JonathanDee Online


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 aA 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...

Title : The Locals
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 34836990
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Locals Reviews

  • Elyse
    2019-01-06 13:27

    I like Jonathan Dee. He's an author who makes me think about current affairs and the state of American people. **THIS BOOK** HURT MY BRAIN MORE THAN ALL HIS OTHER BOOKS COMBINED!!!! And.... I LOVED IT!!!!! ..... drove me crazy. My tummy was in knots at times. Please -please forgive me -- 'writing' a review is EXHAUSTING my body!!!I honestly don't know how to write about it. I can TALK about it for DAYS it seems. -*Talking* about it seems to exhilarate me. IF I COULD TURN THIS INTO A SPEAKING REVIEW .... we'd all have more fun! My writing part of my brain is sluggish compared to my verbal side. My poor husband,... I've chewed his ears for the past two days, following him around like his shadow.... chattering about building construction- and employee/employer appropriateness. NOTE: My husband is a General Building Contractor for 40 years remodeling upscale homes in Silicon Valley. In "The Locals", there is a substantial amount of construction jargon mixed with characters having 'issues' ...[some annoying ...others completely warped] -- that you see, "I HAD TO *TALK* ABOUT THESE PEOPLE"!! I spent an hour on the phone this morning talking with a friend about the whole darn story. You'd think I was one of the Firth siblings.....Mark Firth, Gerry Firth, Candace Firth, Renee Firth ( married with another last name, and the only sibling who moved away from Howland), the parents of these adult kids ..... and me? Elyse Firth Walters? Haha. Don't laugh...the reader gets 'that involved' in the lives of everyone in this small town. Patty Melt for lunch anyone at the Undermountain Cafe? It's what Phil Hadi eats whenever he goes there. While on the phone with my friend this morning, I started gossiping about every character from what they ate, to who cheated who, to who hated who and why. And now...I'm SPENT!!! "The Locals" .... makes a nice bookend to "The Privileges". There's a satire-ish ring - a look at social realism in both novels. Only ... rather than this story being about the rising success about a privileged couple....We meet several overconfident and condescending people living in a small town in America: Howland, Massachusetts.There are almost no likable characters in this small town....but the novel itself is complex and compelling. The novel begins the day after 911, in New York City. The slimmest character is introduced. He has no name. It's a jaw-hanging story for readers. ---And I man 'HANGING'....Be prepared to wait awhile to find out more about slimball later in the story. Mark is a General Contractor - married to Karen. The loss of money from a really stupid mistake on Mark's part -- is not helping this marriage 'thrive'. They have one 8 year old girl, Haley, who attends the private school in town. Mullins Day School.The public school - Howland Elementary school seems to be a horrible mess. So.... for those families who can pay the 18,000 a year, do. PAYING for Haley's school solves ALL PROBLEMS! Covers up adult egos and superiority attitudes. Haha!!!Gerry, worked in Real estate for Century 21. He got fired for f#%king the secretary 'in' one of the listing homes - where he brings clients. In desperate need of money... he begins to work with his brother, Mark, flipping houses. As my husband said...."GOOD LUCK WITH THAT"..... in a very thriving economy after 911 in small-town America! Hahaha...,again. ( note: no sarcasm on my part) :)Candace: I was hoping she would be the likable character. Fat Chance. However, when she made an eighth grader cry in her human biology class that she was teaching I was thrilled! Lol. The 8th grade girl, Bayley Kimball, with the words "juicy" across her ass isn't likable either. Phil Hadi..... The richest man in town, "Benevolent Billionaire",... is actually the most likable... the most down to earth ...,the most humble! There is an aura about him that is different from all the other locals. He was simply clear about who he was. He wasn't competing with anyone --he wasn't guarded. He was a decent/generous man that didn't need a layer of protection around him. His compassion stood out among many other characters filled with hated and selfishness. The contract between those struggling and those not - is something I began to examine from all sides. People are very different when they don't have security of having a job - than those who do. In a small town - everything is magnified. There was not a lot of places to hide. Jonathan Dee, an extremely gifted writer, asks us profound questions about life - truth and deception - and responsibility under breakdowns and pressure. Lots of ordinary frustrations....but.... there is nothing ordinary about this novel.Great discussion book!!!!!Thank You Random House, Netgalley, and Jonathan Dee

  • Larry H
    2018-12-30 20:13

    Few contemporary authors have as keen an eye for observing society and personal dynamics as Jonathan Dee. His previous novels have looked at the haves and have-nots, the way the public revels in and revolts against scandal, and failing and thriving marriages, among other topics.In his latest novel, The Locals, Dee takes on the foibles of a small New England town being caught in a tug of war between those who want the town to stay the same and those who believe it can be better than it is, and are willing to invest in it—as long as things go their way.Howland, Massachusetts has never been much of a tourist attraction; there's really only one site worth seeing, the historical home in which a former railroad baron and his ill wife once lived. In the days post-9/11, Howland is, like many towns, populated by those who believe in personal freedoms and those who believe the government should do anything it can to keep people safe.Mark Firth, a contractor and home restorer, was actually in New York City on 9/11, as he was planning to give a deposition in a case against the man who swindled him out of his family's savings. Now, as he worries about how much longer people will need his services and what that will do to his family, and thinks about those wealthy people who come up to Howland, build fancy houses, and leave them empty all winter, he wonders why some people have all the luck and others have to fight for every last thing.Philip Hadi was one of those wealthy people, but after 9/11, he brought his family up from New York permanently, as he wasn't sure whether as a wealthy financial manager he might be a target of a subsequent attack against the U.S. He employs Mark's company to bolster his home's security features, and the two build a relationship of sorts, one which inspires Mark to look beyond contracting and home restoration and consider pursuing investment in Howland's housing market.Meanwhile, Hadi, who enjoys the small-town feel of Howland and believes it can be more than it is, becomes the town's first selectman, and uses his money to essentially buy the town's loyalty, as he saves businesses and citizens from foreclosure and bankruptcy. But as he moves to turn the town into a wholly different place, and encroach on personal freedoms he doesn't agree with, the town starts to push back.These stories play out against a backdrop of those of other Howland residents, including Mark's sister, brother, wife, daughter, and other citizens. There are stories of infidelities, alcoholism, struggling to find yourself, dealing with aging parents and feeling as if you're the only one carrying that weight, financial woes, etc. I felt as if Dee tried a little too hard to make this book an epic story of sorts, because there are just so many characters mentioned in and out of different sections that it was difficult to remember who was whom. Then, suddenly, as the book would move into another section, an undisclosed amount of time would have elapsed and major (although perhaps not surprising) plot points would simply be mentioned in passing.Dee is a great writer, and his storytelling shines through this book, which is a little more of a downer than I expected. I just wish he made his characters more appealing and sympathetic, because I didn't feel there was really anyone to root for. Additionally, I felt that the whole first section, although it helped develop a little bit of Mark's character, was nearly superfluous, so I'm not sure why it had to drag on as long as it did. Still, the social commentary Dee provides is tremendously insightful and on point, especially in today's political environment.NetGalley and Random House provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available! See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  • Esil
    2018-12-28 20:39

    4 high stars! I've not loved all of Jonathan Dee's novels, but I sure like his sensibility as a writer and I love how it comes through in The Locals. Many may find that not much happens in this novel, but it really worked for me. Moving from 2001 to close to the present, Dee creates an ensemble of characters who live in Howland, Massachusetts. Together, the characters represent a political, economic and social tableau of the times. The story starts in Manhattan the day after 9/11, and then moves to Howland, moving through time as told from the perspective of a number of characters. Moving from one slice of time to another, from one character's perspective to another, I felt like I was seeing recognizable personal struggles cast in a familiar political and economic context. Howland was as much a character as the individuals who live there -- the small town's evolution over the decade plus depicted is of a piece with the current and political dynamics of the US. There is one particularly brilliant story thread about the effects of having a very wealthy Manhattanite take on a political position in the town. To me this is Dee's strength -- his characters are never divorced from their historical context, but they manage to remain multidimensional. I loved reading this one. It doesn't have the acerbic tone of Dee's other novels. This time round, he seems to care more for his characters than he did in, for example, The Privileges. Having said this, this is not a cheery or optimistic read. This was not a flaw for me but may be for others. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  • Meredith
    2018-12-26 17:09

    I don't even know how to describe this--it took me on a journey through post 9/11 America. It's not for everyone, but I loved it!Full review to come!

  • Melki
    2019-01-14 13:30

    When there was a crisis, a tragedy, you wanted it to change you---or not change, but reveal you, show you who you really were when all the usual bullshit worries were stripped away. Show you your true, best self.I finished this book almost a week ago, and am still at a loss for how to describe it. Thanks to Dee, we get to spend some time in a small New England town. It's quaint as all heck, but the citizens are suffering economically . . . until a wealthy new resident begins doling out cash to various businesses and individuals. But, there's nothing like the feeling of indebtedness to trigger resentment, and things don't stay peachy for very long.The Locals is definitely not the feel-good book of the season; I can't think of a single inhabitant of this imaginary town who is not dissatisfied with something. But, it's also one of the most real, and involving books I've read in a long time. Dee employs an unusual writing technique here - something akin to a relay race where characters pick up a thread of the story and run with it. I found it disconcerting at first, though quickly fell in love with the style. Not everyone will like this book: it moves slowly, the tone is pretty bleak, and most of the characters are not particularly likable. I suspect there will be much criticism over the ending - it's not a happy one, and not everyone gets a succinct epilogue.Just like real life . . .

  • Liz
    2019-01-05 21:29

    This is the first book by Jonathan Dee that I've read. And well, it starts off with a cynical sense of humor that some people might not appreciate especially as it pertains to NYC 9/11. But I like cynical. From there, the action moves to Howland, MA. Things calm down, but those little hints of cynicism stay. Everyone seems to be trying to figure out how to outsmart everyone else. Dee has the ability to really nail people and their motives. He shows how almost everyone has at least some asshole tendencies. They are also not the best or the brightest, and you can see in advance where some of them are going to end up. He also writes amazingly well. Even little descriptions like “the river looked like it was in as bad a mood as everyone else”. The novel rolls along at a good clip, surprisingly, given how much of it involves character studies. This isn't a book of laugh out loud funny moments, but I found myself snickering repeatedly. In a weird sense, this book reminds me of Elizabeth Strout’s work. One character’s chapters rolls into another’s and thus, the plot moves forward. There are numerous characters, almost all the citizens of Howland seem to be represented one at a time. As the plot moves along, the storyline delves into the political and social aspects of a small town. There is a lot of interesting commentary here. What happens when a political figure tries to impose his will on the town? What are the consequences of no tax increases? What stories does the town tell itself about its history? My only disappointment was over the ending, as the book just seemed to stop. Not sure what kind of resolution I was looking for, as this book mirrors life in how it chugs along. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

  • Lucy Banks
    2019-01-09 19:24

    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.Sprawling tome about small-town America, insightful, thought-provoking, yet strangely unmoving.I agonised over what to rate this book. On the one hand, I wanted to give it a solid 5*, due to the sheer intricacy and breadth of it - it is masterfully plotted, and the narrative device (shifting continuously from character to character) is formidable. On the other hand, I felt like giving it a 3*, as I'm not sure I actually enjoyed it that much. So in the end, I went for something in between.The book starts with a petty criminal, trying to legally reclaim money he's had stolen by a con-man. It's in the wake of 9/11 - which immediately makes the reader believe that this will be the focus of the book. Not so at all! This initial section is actually a clever framing device, leading you into the real heart of the story.The petty criminal meets Mark Firth, a construction guy who's also been conned out of his money. Turns out, Mark is a bit of a naive idealist, who lives out in a small town. And that's where the narrative travels - back to Mark's life, not to mention his dissatisfied brother Gerry, his complicated sister Candace, and his wife and child, Karen and Hayley.Their lives are at the centre of the book, but there's a vast ensemble of other characters, notably Philip Hadi, who saves the town by becoming its selectsman and investing plenty of money into it. Where the book really excels is its exploration of America post 9/11 - the growing sense of unrest, dissatisfaction and paranoia. It's also a powerful examination of attitude - those in the town that are desperate to preserve the old way of life, and those who realise this simply isn't achievable. However, at times it felt too ambitious - too sprawling and complex, and dare I say it, a little dull in places. Some characters completely reeled me in (LOVED the enigmatic Hadi, what a fascinating individual), and others left me cold. If this book had been tightened up and focused a little more, I think it could have been a masterpiece - but hey, that's just my personal opinion.Overall, I'm really glad I invested the time in it, because although I wasn't always enjoying it, it got me thinking, and that's a good thing!

  • Ron Charles
    2018-12-25 13:22

    Jonathan Dee’s thoughtful novels may not be ripped from the headlines, but his plots hug the contours of our era. In such books as “The Privileges,” which was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, Dee writes about the way financial upheaval shapes modern relationships and morals.His prescient sensitivity has never been more unnerving than in his new novel, “The Locals,” which describes a billionaire running for office and taking over a small town. Given that premise, it’s tempting at first to interpret this story as some kind of parable of our present political plight, but the timing makes that improbable. After all, a complex novel takes years to compose, and, more important, there’s no parallel between Dee’s hyper-competent billionaire and the one flailing around in the White House. Instead, “The Locals” feels attuned to the broader currents of our culture, particularly the renewed tension between competing ideals of community and self-reliance.The story begins in. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:

  • Betsy Robinson
    2019-01-16 16:37

    This book opened with a compelling character, scene, and the promise of plot that never came—setups were never fulfilled, characters disappeared after one appearance and their presence seemed ultimately unimportant. But I didn’t know all this until I got to the end. I kept hoping and kept reading because the people and place were interesting and I trusted I was being expertly led to a raison d’etre for the whole endeavor and some kind of connection between the disparate parts. Nope. Ultimately this novel felt structurally flawed. Yes, local rural Massachusetts people and politics were well portrayed. But there was a ton of inner dialogue and well-rounded people in a story that wound, sprawled, and for me, never came together with any oomph. Hence, whatever the point of the story—some of the cover blurbs say it’s about the housing bubble or American selfishness or rich vs. average—it sputters. It was a long tease with no pay-off.

  • Jill
    2019-01-05 17:36

    Jonathan Dee may very well have written a chronicle of the downfall of America—the oblivious self-confidence, the narcissism, the shaky ethics, the ingratiation, the polarized political conversation, and perhaps most importantly, the class divide.Right from page one, the reader is thrust right into the aftermath of 9/11, a time of unprecedented uncertainties and fears, when life as we know it screeches to an abrupt halt and when every person feels personally impacted by the event. Here we meet Mark Firth – a contractor from the Berkshires – who is in NY planning to give a disposition against a shady character who swindled his family out of their savings.Mark is contrasted against Philip Hadi, a mega-wealthy hedge fund manager who brings his family to the Berkshires permanently after an unsubstantiated rumor of another 9/11-type New York attack. Mark and those who gravitate in his orbit (his wife, his brother and sister, his workman) become haunted by “unlived lives, by the various corpses of possibility.”When Hadi – for sentimental and self-serving reasons – decides to take over as the town’s selectman, the scene is set. Does Hadi represent economic salvation or a descent into dependence? Does the pursuit of one’s own interest multiply into the common good or is it just about the rich getting more powerful? Is the “little guy” being systematically erased or is it still possible for him or her to grab on to the fading threads of the American dream? And do those who are blessed with wealth feel purified by that wealth, and if so, can their motives really be pure…or are they organically suspect?All these questions and more are explored in The Locals. At times, a touch of editing might have helped the forward propulsion. Yet overall, the insightful glimpse into a town dealing with existential issues over and above the typical stories of infidelities, financial insecurities, aging parents and more, is thoughtfully rendered. 4.5 stars, rounded up.

  • Perry
    2018-12-31 21:23

    Classical Air GuitarThe novel covers some timely issues and both the writing and character development are quite exceptional. Yet, the novel itself is unexceptional because it lacks the rhythm and propulsion required to drive the story and reader forward. In that way, it reminds me of an air guitar which--following through all the necessary motions but lacking actual strings--is ultimately doomed to dead air.

  • Tooter
    2019-01-11 21:34

    There's not a lot going on in this book. No romance, mystery, twists or turns...just a beautifully written story about daily life in a small town in Massachusetts. But it's an insightful and thought-provoking narrative by an extremely talented writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Pure perfection.I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Dianne
    2019-01-14 13:18

    This is a very tough one to review. It kicked off with a bang with a gripping prologue narrated by a contemptible, almost sociopathic con-man in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in New York City. The story then segues into the setting of small town Howland, Massachusetts, where local residents find themselves in a sort of class/political warfare with each other. There are plenty of characters and Dee fleshes them out beautifully - all fully human, flawed and selfish in their own unique way. The most interesting character to me was the billionaire Philip Hadi, who moves his unwilling family to the quaint and charming town of Howland in the aftermath of 9/11. Hadi and his wife, Rachel, are the only characters I thought Dee left blank. I didn't get them at all - they never felt real or substantial and I could not get a handle on Hadi's real motivation for anything he did.The story meanders along through the years, with character arcs melding into each other mid-chapter, as if Dee were taking just an aimless walk around town. The story just ends with no real denouement. It's just weird - started as a 4, and ended up a 3. The writing and the characters are first rate but after a while, it was a real effort to pick up for me because I just didn't care anymore. I suspect I am probably not bright or savvy enough to grasp the deep, meaningful political warning Dee is imparting here - my loss, I guess.Sincere thanks to Netgalley and Random House for an ARC of this novel.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2019-01-10 14:14

    From politically incorrect to socially astute, Jonathan Dee takes no prisoners on his post 9/11 depiction of America, particularly southwestern Massachusetts (although the prologue—the immediate post NYC 9/11 shock behavior, was the most incongruously hilarious I’ve yet read). The narrative focuses most on the citizens of (the fictional town) Howland, Mass., a rural area that attracts the wealthy NYC and Boston elite in the summertime, but the locals still struggle to get by economically. Mark, a talented restorer of houses, was emptied out financially in an investment scam he fell for, which brought him to NYC to an attorney there heading up a class action suit. He arrived on 9/10/01, and was caught in the fear and fervor of the 9/11 tragedy. Once home, he and his wife had taken on a fresh perspective to their stale marriage, and, although Mark’s appointment with the lawyer was suspended until further notice, he vows to make a change for the better.Enter Philip Hadi, a NYC billionaire investment tycoon, seemingly unassuming but dripping with the understated power that comes with the confidence of his position—“a guy who had everything and from whom nothing could be taken away.” Hadi and his wife, who spend holidays in Howland (the house next to Mark’s), have now taken up residence there, due to the fear of staying in NYC. He hires Mark to do security on his house, and the dazzle of wealth attracts Mark, who feels less than equal to Hadi.Dee is seamless at segueing from one character to another, sometimes from one paragraph to the next—from Mark, to his wife, Karen, his daughter, Haley, Mark’s siblings, and other locals in the town. When Hadi takes over the job as First Selectman and saves the town from financial ruin via charitable donations, revenue deficit replenishment, and even paying some of the salaries of government employees, Mark’s cynical brother, Gerry, starts an angry blog, trying to provoke others into anti-Hadi sentiment. The great divide is seen in all its glory—or ingloriousness. Is Hadi good or bad, corrupt or incorruptible? As politics colors the individuals in the story, the reader is taken on this satirical yet poignant journey between 9/11 and the economic bubble burst. Dee is a terse and succinct, controlling his story through a sinewy narrative. I was always ready for the other shoe to drop, so tense was the feeling in my gut as I continued to turn the pages.“…whenever something major happens it’s like everybody wants to insist on their little piece of suffering…they were just overdoing it, I’m sorry. Get over yourselves. You weren’t there, it didn’t happen to you. Plus you know anything built that high is going to come down sooner or later, one way or another.” Mocking and twisted at times, but its irreverence is cruelly accurate. A must read for the Millennial generation—and all who came before.

  • Brenda
    2019-01-01 15:18

    This is one of those books that grabs you at the beginning, starts out a solid five star, then slows down, disappoints and finishes a three. You're drawn into the lives of the local people of small town Howland, Massachusetts. Howland is a summer resort town where many families have a second vacation home. Enters the Firth family siblings. This not a book about life post 9/11 as I initially thought when I read the description. The book opens with the 9/11 event and a minor player in the story. Then enters Mark Firth who happens to be in NY on that particular day. Mark is visiting an attorney and is involved in a class action law suit against a man who swindled him out of his savings. I'm still not clear as to why the 9/11 event was selected as the opening of the book or the author chose to open with a minor character.Each character and there are many, had a unique contribution to the story; Mark, Candace and Gerry Firth, Mark's wife Karen and their daughter Haley are the main contenders. The others enter and exit the side lines adding color and detail to support the main characters. Each family member, none of whom I liked or respected, has different values and opinions. Mark had my alliance at the beginning of the book, my favorite part, but lost my support half way through. Philip Hadi, NY billionaire was the hero in the book for me, a selfless person doing all he could, paying it forward for the greater good.I rated the book 3 stars for several reasons. 1. After keeping the reader intrigued with the drama of daily life, it bogs down with minor characters. 2. Though filled with fine details, the story went nowhere with a disappointing end. 3. The way that Dee decided to present the story, in long flowing paragraphs, page after page of text without chapters, breaks, or headings was difficult to follow and took some getting use to.Bottom line, a good read that highlights the world we live in today and let's us peek into the lives of the haves and have nots. Thanks to both Netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Nancy
    2018-12-26 16:22

    I am an introvert. I can be outgoing and talkative and friendly, but I know I am an introvert because being around a lot of people leaves me ready for a nap and a recharge, while an extrovert would be pumped.I was in the middle of reading The Locals when I felt that drained feeling. The point of view kept jumping from person to person and there were too many voices and people for me to handle. I took a nap.It was several days before I pushed myself to pick the book back up. I finished it in another day's reading.The novel starts out strong with an abrasive con man. His victim is Mark, from a small town in the Berkshires, who lost his money in an investment scam. Mark is an 'easy mark', and loses his credit card to this grifter. The story follows Mark back home, introducing a whole village of characters, each struggling to make it.A New York City hedge-fund manager moves his family into their summer cottage; 9-11 and 'inside information' has convinced him that the city is no longer safe. Philip Hadi likes his new town and assumes political and financial control, paying budgetary items out of pocket to keep taxes low and home values high.When the town decides they can't allow Hadi to arbitrarily make laws, he feels unappreciated and up and leaves--taking his money with him. The town has to deal with the hard reality that they cannot cover the budget without raising taxes significantly. They realize that under Hadi they had been living in "a fool's paradise," and must reevaluate what is necessary. The new reality includes closing the library, creating new fees, and requiring citations quotas from police.Characters thoughts reflect aspects of 21st-century thinking:"Corruption was a fact of life, on the governmental level especially, and if you didn't find your own little way to make it work for you, then you'd be a victim of it.""The nation was at war; the invisible nature of that war made it both harder and more important to be vigilant.""He thought everybody on TV was full of shit--the pundits, the alarmists, the conspiracy theorists--but their very full-of-shittiness was like a confirmation of what he felt inside: that things right now were off their anchor, that the decline of people's belief in something showed up in their apparent willingness to believe anything.""The best part [of the Internet] was feeling that you were anonymous out there but had an identity at the same time." "...and this internet was like some giant bathroom wall where you could just scrawl whatever hate you liked.""Some people really come to life when they have an enemy.""Rich people, he thought. The world shaped itself around their impulses."I was perplexed and puzzled why I did not have any immediate thoughts about the book. The ending involves a teenager who flaunts the rules and finds empowerment in resistance. Perhaps I am just too dense for subtlety? Or am I confused by too many voices, too many opinions, that I am not sure of what the author is saying?A Goodreads friend loved this novel, which inspired me to request it from NetGalley. (She is an extrovert.) I agree with her that there are no likable characters. Each is flawed and self-centered, discouraged and angry about missing that brass ring ticket to success and happiness. Well, that could describe quite a few people today. Perhaps my problem with the book is I don't like who we have become and I don't like the options offered to us. At the end of The Locals, Allerton, the new selectman, realizes that "any sort of collective action was automatically suspect...because if it worked, then we wouldn't be in the mess we were now in."Once upon a time, we believed in progress and the eternal upward arc into a better world, which now we condemn as the fallacy of fairy tale thinking. And I want to hold to that fairy tale of a possible Utopia, the Star Trek world, the Utopia for Realists. Dee's novel reflects what we have become, but I want to be inspired to consider what we may become. So I return to the small and strange act of resistance at the end, a teenager who just wants to sleep in a historical home, and is told she may not. It took another night's sleep for me to wake up and think, yeah, that's it--the girl's seemingly small act of resistance is a metaphor, about reclaiming for all what is reserved for those who can pay for it. I finally saw the light. But it is subtle, but it's there.I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  • Jill Meyer
    2018-12-27 16:25

    Jonathan Dee's superb new novel, "The Locals", was easy to read but difficult to review. I don't like writing a review where I compare one book to another, but it's the only way for me to write this review. I think that Dee's writing is much like Jonathan Franzen in his book, "The Corrections", yet with tighter control - much tighter - over the plot and the characters."The Locals" is a picture of a time, a place, and the people who inhabit both. Set in the Massachusetts Berkshires - think Route 7 as it works it's way from Connecticut to Vermont. The town of Howland, MA was little different than the other small towns in the area. The "locals" who lived there made their way year round, sometimes servicing those wealthy "second home-rs" from New York City and Boston. The story begins on 9/11 when local builder Mark Firth is in New York City for a meeting with a lawyer about some money he'd lost in a scam. Jonathan Dee does an excellent job reminding the reader about those days right after the attacks, when Americans everywhere went out of their way to be nice to others. Mark returns to Howland without the settlement but is asked soon after to fix up the house of New Yorker Philip Hadi, a wealthy money-man who was resettling his family to Howland from New York. And it is Philip Hadi, who soon turns the lives of Howland residents upside down.Who was Philip Hadi and what were his intentions in first settling in Howland and then by taking over the town? Even after finishing the book, I can't tell if he was a good guy...or a bad guy. He was a complicated guy in a town where most guys seemed simple, but were actually not. Jonathan Dee describes Hadi in terms which go together with the times - a post 9/11 world where the country is at war and certain civil liberties are curtailed as well. Dee's book has many characters and not a single one is a caricature. He breathes life into everyone and I had no trouble keeping track of everyone. The book's stretch reminded me of "The Corrections", a book whose aim I admired but didn't particularly like. I thought there were too many loose ends and characters in "The Corrections" and could not quite understand all the praise. Anyway, Jonathan Dee's book is not long - 375 pages - but everything is pulled together. We don't know what happened to many characters but the book feels complete. Again, Dee is telling a story of a time and a place, and he tells it beautifully.

  • Claire
    2018-12-30 19:13

    I received The Locals as part of a Goodreads giveaway.In the wake of 9/11, the residents of a small western Massachusetts town come face to face with the larger, busier outside world when political and economic forces transform their sleepy community. Mark Firth, a down on his luck home renovator, crosses paths with Philip Hadi, a wealthy financier from New York City. Hadi intends to set down roots, making his newly-purchased country home a safe space from the perceived dangers of the city, and hiring Mark to handle a slew of security-related renovations. As the years pass, Hadi runs for (and wins) an influential seat in the town government and seeks to make his mark on the community, setting off a series of implications for Mark, his family, and friends.This was a gorgeous book. The characters were agonizingly real, the prose was fantastic, the storyline riveting, even if it wasn't packed with action. I read this on a road trip, and I apologized to my boyfriend multiple times because I went quiet for long stretches, being so lost in it. As I said above, no bombshells or major action, just the life of a small town and its struggling inhabitants in the wake of 9/11. It's not a cheerful read, but there's authenticity there that is hard to capture. If I had a criticism it would be that the ending seemed kind of abrupt, but it's minor in comparison to the enjoyment I derived from it.

  • Karen
    2019-01-14 19:21

    The author effortlessly gives the reader a narrative of life in a small town. Howland, Massachusetts feels like a genuine community. Dee’s characterization of the ‘locals’ reveals the flaws of human nature. No matter the temperament however, each character is richly drawn; I just wish there weren’t so many as it was confusing at times. The tone is generally not a happy one but there is an undercurrent of hope. In the end, I felt good about my time spent with the ‘locals’. Overall, a story that raises questions and is a good read.

  • Tressa
    2018-12-21 14:09

    Have you ever read a book about nothing much but still enjoyed it? This usually happens to me with general fiction because this genre touches upon everyday life and nothing much happens to distinguish the story in the memory, such as an alien invasion, giant crabs storming the beaches, or a delicious whodunit. That's how I feel about The Locals. It's a wonderfully written book about a small fictional town in Massachusetts after 9/11, and while the book promises BIG themes such as the role of government in our lives, our sense of vulnerability after an attack, and the financial Grand Canyon between the haves and havenots, I don't think it delivers, especially with the ending I found flat and not very interesting. What I love about The Locals and why I gave it four stars is that 1) it reminds me of Thomas Berger's wonderful books about how each individual that makes up a town has a story to tell, and 2) Dee's characters are very real, showing all the insecurities, ego, humor, and assholery of the average human being. I laughed out loud so many times from the behavior and dialogue of these characters that it makes me want to read other books by Jonathan Dee.

  • Dave
    2018-12-31 18:24

    First, thank you Random House for providing me with an arc, through netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.We are introduced to Mark Firth, a sucker who wants to be a millionaire, in the first chapter, which was probably my favorite of the book, that takes place in NYC immediately proceeding 9/11. One of my favorite parts of the entire book, is how we see brotherly love, care and concern for our fellow man, and then we watch as, through the passage of time, this feeling dissipates. I feel as though this was one of many subplots that the author introduces and we can all relate to.The remainder of this story takes place in Howland, a small town in Massachusetts. There are so many characters that float in and out of this story that it was hard for me to see where it was going or who I should care about. Ultimately my favorite character, in a lineup that shows many flaws by all, was probably Mark's sister Candace. She is no less flawed than the rest, I just liked the way she handled herself best.The author is knowledgable about current and recent affairs, and I did enjoy revisiting, through this small town the real estate boom and bust, the invasion of all of our privacy through cameras etc. which we all have allowed, and the power of the privileged. At the end of the day the story is engaging enough, and the characters and all their day to day dilemmas are fun enough to read that I would probably recommend it, but only if you don't mind good writing that seemingly leads you nowhere.

  • Pamela
    2019-01-09 17:21

    As a resident of southern Berkshire County, I'm one of "the locals." I enjoyed the book because of the recognition value for me of the places around where I live. (I'm not sure if the owners of Fuel will be pleased to have their coffee shop described as "the lesbian coffee shop" in Great Barrington). I also recognize some of the resentment between the locals and the New Yorkers with their summer homes and how they relate to each other, though I've never personally experienced it to the extent described. I understand it's fiction, and as such is only a reflection of reality and not reality itself.A note about the writing: Mr. Dee tells the story in an interesting way. A chapter about one of the characters will circle around to an interaction with another character, and then the perspective shifts to that of the second character, and then as he interacts with another, the story becomes hers, so we get a series of glimpses into these characters lives as they shift and change over the course of years following 9/11/01, and their fears about security both local and national and how we each deal with those anxieties.

  • Robert Wechsler
    2019-01-01 13:35

    I was disappointed with this novel, partly because I expected it to be more about the southern Berkshires (it is not, in any important way), partly because I expected it to be more eye-opening about the way working-class locals think (I found little that was new), partly because of the bouncing between one character and the other (fortunately in the third rather than the first person), and partly because it is a commercial novel that Dee could have made more interesting, in terms of language and sentence structure.What held my interest is Dee’s professionalism, rather than anything intrinsic to the novel. He’s a good, solid writer, but I am not the right audience for this novel. I did, however, greatly like The Liberty Campaign when I read it back in 1995.

  • Justin
    2019-01-02 17:11

    I will have to open with a little internal eating of crow. When I finished this book, I couldn't wait to finish it and sped through it a bit toward the end. I found it slow, I couldn't connect, and while the story was a good one, I just was jaded.Then a week passed and the book stuck with me. I kept going back to it and how it connects to our world, especially in the US at this moment. The characters stuck with me and the plot kept nagging at me. It was a wonderful microcosm of larger issues in our world. I wound up changing my rating on Goodreads. This is a terrific book. Crow eaten.It is true that it is a slow burn, but let it burn slowly. I gave this one 4 stars.

  • Cheryl
    2019-01-08 19:12

    (4.5) This Pulitzer finalist is an entertaining exploration of the human psyche--more pointedly, it's a fun, real glimpse into small-town America, told through a seamless transition of 1st person narratives in rural New England. It's provocative & pertinent NOW. I REALLY liked it. Favorite sentence: "The land underneath Gerry's tires was invaded and tilled and consecrated by men who believed that only the pursuit of one's own interest might multiply into the common good." If that doesn't sum up America, I don't know what does!

  • Mary Lins
    2018-12-22 14:37

    Don't start reading the Prologue of "The Locals", by Jonathan Dee, unless you have time to read all 33 pages of it because you won't be able to put it down. It's 33 pages of WOW; the most shockingly and sublimely politically incorrect thing I've read in years. It is narrated by a total jerk and takes place in Manhattan the days immediately after 9/11. It would not have seen print ten years ago. My next thought was; I sure hope the rest of the book is as funny, arresting, enticing, and interesting as the beginning, and while what followed wasn't as SHOCKING, it was indeed a great read! I did spend the whole book hoping for this unnamed jerk to show up. (No spoilers!)How have I never read Jonathan Dee before this? Well, better late than never! "The Locals" is so good, and so timely, that I am in awe of Dee's talent. I don't think I've ever read a book that so seamlessly flows from one character to another and yet maintains each character's unique voice. The novel is about the "locals"; the denizens of Howland, a small, struggling town in Massachusetts in the years following the 9/11 attack and leading up to the financial crisis. We first meet Mark Firth in the prologue mentioned above. Mark, is the focus of the rest of the novel, along with his family, friends and neighbors. Mark is a housing contractor who aspires to make something more of himself - both professionally and financially. An enigmatic Billionaire moves to town and basically takes it over. Is this a GOOD thing or is it more like a cat that is playing with a ball of yarn? All of Dee's characters are wonderfully varied and well crafted - and this is high praise from me: it's reminiscent of Richard Russo's upstate New York novels, where a lot of the characters feel they've gotten a bad deal - and they have. "The Locals" is an Historical novel, and since it's recent history that most of us remember, it's all the more compelling. It's impossible to not ask ourselves: "How did we get from there to here?" and Dee's novel helps us see how indeed. While he's not as hard on the internet and TV media as I would have been, his description of the TV news, especially after 9/11, as the "harassing soundtrack of gloom" is spot on. In fact, all of Dee's keen observations on modern life in America; security vs privacy, education, privileged, the markets, small town government, taxation, aging parents, unemployment, personal responsibility, and the nature of "manhood" etc. are what make this novel so rich and important. Highly recommended.

  • Liz
    2018-12-27 16:26

    Please read more of my book thoughts at:http://cavebookreviews.blogspot.comThe Berkshires, in south western Massachusetts, is one of those places that New Yorkers flock to in the summer. There are lovely small towns like Stockbridge and Great Barrington, and the Tanglewood Music Festival draws large crowds. I was one of those New Yorkers in the seventies and eighties. I loved having a picnic on the lawn on a July 4th night when Leonard Bernstein conducted, and the program included West Side Story (He changed his mind at the last minute and played a newly composed piece instead, but that was okay). We didn't even care that it rained. We shared the canopy of a huge tree with another New York couple.I, like many other New Yorkers, thought about what it would be like to live in the Berkshires, maybe not full time but all summer. I wondered what it was like to be a permanent resident of such a beautiful, bucolic, landscape. Jonathan Dee's new novel, The Locals plays out that fantasy with some funny anecdotes and, a bleak view of life in a town where rich people vacation and middle-class residents struggle to make ends meet and live a life that is fulfilling.The setting is the fictional community of Howland, close to Stockbridge and Great Barrington. Mark Firth runs a contracting business of renovating and restoring houses in the area. One of his biggest clients is his neighbor, Philip Hadi. Hadi is a hedge fund millionaire who moves to his summer home full time after 9/11. Mark is hired to fit the home with the highest level of security. The house becomes Hadi's fortress.When Mark is thinking about his brother Gerry, a real estate agent, the narrative switches to Gerry and his thoughts about the people he shows houses to and then his story is handed off to the next character. Gerry's sister Candace plays a pivotal role in the story as the daughter who checks in on their parents. She is very concerned about her mother's advancing dementia and her father's lack of patience and understanding. Neither Mark nor Gerry understands Candace's angst.We never know what Hadi is thinking. He is the puppet master, using his money as the ultimate influence in the entire community. His largesse is secretive and not well known to everyone. Hadi becomes the autocratic symbol for what ails the USA, the losing end of being middle class, and the rising power of wealth on the political stage.Hadi takes over as mayor and life in Howland becomes pleasant for most people. The residents are pleased that their taxes haven't gone up. The tax rate went down. It doesn't take long for small cracks to appear. People start grumbling about losing the right to smoke in the local bar. Parking tickets create real anger among the locals. Not everyone is happy with everything all the time.Mark and Gerry decide they want to try their luck when real estate goes into the boom era, and their situation improves but as we all know, that was a bubble that indeed did burst. They buy and sell at a nice profit, but when the houses increase in value, they are stuck renting out their existing homes because they don't have enough capital to purchase more properties. Their partnership splinters.The Locals is a well crafted, thoroughly thought out slice of American lIves in the twenty-first century. JD offers much to mull over and wonder where it is all taking us in the current perilous times of politics, money, and power. Was 9/11 the event that flipped us all into some different kind of society that is guiding us now to an era of autocracy combined with xenophobia, and protectionism?Thank you, Jonathan Dee, NetGalley, and Random House.

  • Jill
    2018-12-22 20:32

    When I read that George Saunders calls The Locals a "bold, vital and view-expanding novel that thrills technically and emotionally", I had to read it.I can see how the novel is relevant for this moment in history, because this small town is really representative of our country in this political climate. How do we work together for the greater good when we cannot agree on how to move forward? Why is there such a gap between the haves and the have nots? Why do people believe you more readily or are more ready to follow you when you are wealthy? This would be a very good book club selection, because there is a lot to discuss.I thought the characters were interesting & well written, but I was frustrated by getting to know characters only to have them vanish for no particular reason. I understand that this story was about the town as a whole, so that may have been the author's intention but so many loose ends is something that bothers me as a reader. I liked the book, but I don't think it is one I will especially remember.

  • Melissa
    2019-01-10 17:33

    Very readable, very realistic portrait of America post-911, not earth shattering literature but definitely worthy of attention...

  • Wendy Cosin
    2019-01-17 21:09

    The Locals is a novel set a fictional town in the Berkshires right after 9/11/2001. It focuses on a caucasian family - adult siblings and their aging parents, as well associated family members. Not a lot "happens" in the novel - we get to know the characters through their relationships and actions over a few years. People struggle, the town changes. Big issues are covered - class, self-determination, schools, elitism, small towns, the functioning of local government, the media. But because there isn't much of an arc to the storyline, it would be easy to lose the threads in a quick reading. Well-written and insightful, something about The Locals makes me think of Franzen. Something beyond them both being "Jonathan". The structure of The Locals doesn't make it easy to follow. The Prologue, "Chapter 0” is told in the first person by an incredibly cynical creep who meets oldest brother Mark on 9/11 in NYC when they both had appointments with an attorney, hoping for redress from a Bernie Madoff-type scam. This sets the stage for bad times for America - we see New Yorkers being nice to each other, but tempered by the narrator's ugliness and various mundane realities. By introducing the worst of the worst in first person in the beginning of the novel, there is nowhere to go but up. Not that The Locals ever becomes cheery - the relationships and musings are pretty dour, but that's the point. In the subsequent five sections, the story shifts to Howland, Massachusetts where we meet the rest of Mark's family and neighbors. Told chronologically, the scenes jump around within each section so it feels like there are a lot of people to keep track of. There are some "extra" characters in the book. A second sister who moved away (”housewife revolutionary") gets little attention - perhaps she is included as a symbol of an alternative to rest of the family. The sections don't have titles, but the following themes came out for me. In he first section, we are introduced to the characters and their relationships. Mark gets construction-related work from the town's newest resident, Phillip Hadi, a rich New Yorker who moved to Howland for safety. The siblings have work problems and affairs, and irritations in their aging parents lives are revealed. One sister observes that the guy who built her apartment was not just cheap and simple, but proud of it - similar to her brothers and father. Mark's wife muses how when there is a crisis, you want it to change you or show who you really are when the usual bullshit worries are stripped away, but mundane frustrations take over. Bigger issues are introduced in the second section - social status, populism - as well as tensions in the relationships. Younger brother Gerry starts an anti-tax blog about local politics, which leads to Phillip Hadi's election as "First Selectman" and his offer to lower taxes by subsidizing municipal services. One of the main points of the novel is how this sort of "philanthropy" affects the town, its municipal employees, and the residents. Disillusionment sets in in Section 3. The brothers partner to fix up and flip houses, but things don't go smoothly; Mark comes closer to getting his stolen money back, but is still getting screwed; Hadi takes more control of the town because "democracy doesn't work"; personal boundaries are pushed and relationships deteriorate. Gerry wants life to mean something more, but feels threatened, like the world is trying to get rid of him:"everyone keeps shouting that I'm the one doing the threatening, that black is white, that up is down. It's like Orwell. They think if they say up is down often enough, and loud enough, then we'll believe it." In Section 4, we see the results of what came before. Families fall apart. Hadi leaves town, breaking the town's government - unwilling to increase taxes, austerity follows. "The mood in the town was dark; everyone felt under attack. The response was not to come together but rather to protect everything one had against the depredations, real or imagined, of others. People became fiercely, philosophically self-centered. Whatever your problem might be, its origin was within you, and for that reason, Allerton came to understand, your problem was not my problem. Any sort of collective action was automatically suspect, suspect by definition. It couldn't work. Because if it worked, then we wouldn't be in the mess we were in now, would we? The idea of unselfishness was discredited and shameful."Things are kind of wrapped up in Section 5. Mark and Karen's daughter, Haley, is one of the only likable people in the novel. Her character is developed throughout the novel - empathy, a sense of fairness, a "recourse to that imaginary world of caring". Haley's struggles to understand hypocrisy give the book's ending hope for the future.A link to the NYT book review follows. I received a free copy of The Locals prior to publication.