“Summons up a small American town at precisely the right moment in our history . . . a bold, vital, and view-expanding novel.”—George Saunders
A rural working-class New England town elects as 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.
A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK
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.
Praise for The Locals
“After 9/11, New York hedge fund billionaire Philip Hadi retreats to his summer home in the Berkshires. In thrall to his new town, he runs for office to keep it sleepy, sweet and free from tax hikes. Is he benevolent, arrogant or both? No one gets off the moral hook in this propulsive, brilliantly observed study.”—People (Book of the Week)
“Thoughtful . . . [Jonathan Dee’s] prescient sensitivity has never been more unnerving. . . . Amid the heat of today’s vicious political climate, The Locals is a smoke alarm. Listen up.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
Small-town America in the aftermath of 9/11 is the setting for Dee's engrossing new novel. His blue-collar characters, each of them pursuing the American Dream, are vividly developed, and his insights into how they think about the government (ineffective and corrupt) and their rights as citizens (ignored, trampled) are timely. Mark Firth's family has lived in or near the fictional town of Howland in the Massachusetts Berkshires for generations. A hard worker in the construction trade, a devoted husband and father and a man of strong moral principles, he wants to parlay his earnings into stock market investments. As Mark's wife, Karen, perceives, however, Mark is gullible and guileless, and he is devastated when he loses his savings to a con man. When the next opportunity to get rich seems possible, Mark reluctantly enlists his brother, Gerry, a feckless real estate salesman, as his partner. Gerry, meanwhile, has been writing a blog that criticizes the town's new first selectman, a rich ex-Wall Street hedge fund manager who, postelection, is rapidly exerting his power as an authoritarian politician. A dozen or so more characters round out this picture of a community on the economic skids, whose citizens seethe with a sense of futility and resentment as old values and traditions fade. "I feel like the world is trying to get rid of me.... I feel threatened," one character says. Alcohol in excess and secret sexual trysts help ease the pain, but jobs are scarce and families drift apart. Dee, who wrote about a wealthy segment of society in The Privileges, handles the plot with admirable skill, finding empathy for his bewildered characters. He creates tension as a reckoning day arrives, and strikes the perfect ending note.
Very interesting style
Overall good story but could have used deeper character development. Enjoyed the different (shifting) narrative approach. Ending was a bit weak.
Another brilliantly written treat by Dee
As always, Dee delivers an incredible experience when getting the opportunity to read admire and be some utterly stunned by his intelligence quick mind and broad knowledge and sense about his characters and their innate instincts is beyond inspiring. It’s truly phenomenal the depths this man can take readers to it’s something akin to actually being able to glimpse within his character lives and through that connect to all others. His artistic mind is genius and the ease in which his words can pull readers into such a deep and emotional way is purely majestic.