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Local Girls Hardcover – June 7, 1999

72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

More than a collection of short stories, yet not quite a novel, Local Girls occupies an undefined territory between these two forms. The local girls in question are Gretel Samuelson, her best friend, Jill, her mother, Franny, and Franny's cousin Margot--four characters who weave in and out of each of the 15 related stories that chronicle the rocky years of Gretel's adolescence. That hers will be a tough row to hoe is immediately apparent in the first story, "Dear Diary," in which Alice Hoffman introduces the Samuelson family just as they are being swallowed up by the fissures that have cracked them apart. "Long before the plane touched down in Miami we could hear our parents arguing," Gretel tells us of a family vacation to Florida; "and at the hotel room they locked themselves in their room. If you ask me, working so hard at being married can backfire." It is the end of the marriage that has lasting ramifications, however, as we discover in later stories: Gretel's brilliant older brother, Jason, becomes a drug addict; their mother must battle cancer alone; and Gretel becomes involved in a destructive relationship with a drug dealer. All pretty depressing plot points, to be sure, yet Hoffman's luminous prose combined with Gretel's tart and funny perspective keeps the reader eagerly turning the pages until the very end.

In fact, Gretel and her family and friends are so compelling, so endearing, that the reader wishes Hoffman had chosen to give the Samuelsons a novel instead of this series of stories. In reading about Jason's descent from A student with an acceptance letter from Harvard to working in the produce section at the local supermarket and shooting heroin, for example, one can't help but feel that a lot of his motivations happen between stories; and Gretel's difficult relationship (or lack thereof) with her father and new stepmother functions mainly as a plot device, leaving the reader wanting so much more. And yet, if one is to judge the success of a book by the reader's reluctance to be done with it, then Local Girls is successful, for Hoffman has created a world so enticing that one is willing to overlook the minor flaws. At the end of the title story, as the now-grown Gretel and Jill discuss two teenage girls in the neighborhood who recently committed suicide, Jill remarks: "They should have just waited. That's all they had to do. They would have grown up and everything would have been all right." The same might be said of reading Local Girls. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

Hoffman's chosen form of a novelistic group of short storiesAall of which share the same family charactersAlends itself nicely to the abridged audio format, in which the fragmentation seems a willful form of stylized narration. The audio's producers have augmented this effect: two narrators, the airy Merlington and the pragmatic Vigesaa, play off against each other in tone as they trade stories. In the opener, Gretel Samuelson tells of her family's troubles in confidential, diarylike schoolgirl terms. In later offerings, omniscient descriptions are given of mother Franny's fight against cancer and brother Jason's disintegration as a heroin addict. Though dysfunctional family fiction seems standard fare these days, Hoffman's highly individual knack for creating a sense of specific atmosphere is uncanny and unique, a quality that translates especially well in spoken form. Based on the 1999 Putnam hardcover.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 197 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (June 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739404415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399145070
  • ASIN: 0399145079
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,070,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By L. Blumenthal on November 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book of interconnected short stories is a wonderful look at how sensuous and graceful a story can be. Instead of cramming everything she can into each of the short stories that make up this book, Alice Hoffman lets the tales unfold on their own time. It might take three stories to understand the motivation of one character, but it's worth the time it takes to get there.
I don't think this book was intended to read as a novel, so I am mystified at comments of supposed missing depth. Hoffman's book is a connected series of stories in which the reader is free to fill in the gaps. I give her credit for experimenting with this form.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Emily on June 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I would like to preface my comments by explaining that the three stars are only because I hold Ms. Hoffman to such high standards, but I did find this book truly wonderful. Local girls is a collection of stories that travel through Gretel Samuelson's adolescence involving her beautiful, best friend, Jill, her self-destructive yet intelligent brother, Jason, her vibrant aunt, Margot, and her cancer-ridden, abandoned mother, Frances. What I love about Hoffman is that she doesn't feel the need to glorify her characters, instead she allows their imperfections to crawl through us and realize the beauty that exists anyway. Her language is breathtaking as usual, and she continues to incorporate the wonders and hardships of desire that we experience every day. The stories are either told to us by Gretel, or narrated by Hoffman. It is a lovely book and yet there is not enough of it. I would have preffered a novel rather than a collection. I needed more substance to illustrate the development that took place between stories, because there appeared to be significant chunks of the characters that I never got to see. I was very unsatisfied with Jason's character in particular. The book reflected the strength of women, but Jason was a significant part of the story line, and so much was left unsaid. I do recommend this book though, as well as other Hoffmans' namely: Practical Magic (don't see the movie), Here On Earth, Second Nature, and Seventh Heaven. She is a magical, sexy, illuminating writer.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Witte on August 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is always a pleasure to read a good book. Alice Hoffman is a literary "witch" who weaves a little magic into each of her novels. Although this is not one of her best novels (try TURTLE MOON or HERE ON EARTH)---it's really a little too short to explore any of the character's psyche or motivations---Ms. Hoffman has given the reader another pager turner full of glorious prose. She makes ordinary life extraordinary in each of her novels, and she has fast become my favorite author.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Caroline P. Hampton on July 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Alice Hoffman proves (yet again) what a wonderful storyteller she is. Her novels are so full of power, plot, setting, movement and all the truly wonderful things that make a great book. "Local Girls" is a selection of closely woven short stories about four main characters. The stories are told threw the eyes of young Gretel who you just dearly love. You almost feel cheated that this is a full force novel. The characters that Hoffman created certainly have the power to have carried it. I found myself wanting more and more from each of them. I wanted to see the full arch of the story. But, it certainly didn't distract from how much I enjoyed this selection of stories. I found the struggle of older brother's rise and fall from success especially heartbreaking and readable.
With each book Alice Hoffman shows her talent for any subject matter. I find her very talented and very entertaining. I love her stuff.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on March 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Like another reviewer, I had somehow missed this book of Alice Hoffman's. What an unexpected treat when I found it!
This collection of related stories with alternating narrators was wonderful and forced me to use my imagination to figure out what went on between the stories and think about the details that Hoffman had left out. I would have loved to have read more about this family, but perhaps the author intended to leave us wondering.
The strong women in this book overshadow the weak men in every way. Gretel's father, her brother, and Sonny offer no support to the women in the book. Gretel endures and triumphs, mostly on her own....a perfect example of that saying "what does not kill you will make you strong"..
Like all of Hoffman's books, this was an emotionally moving story but with a few touches (fewer than usual) of her magical realism. And, as usual, the language is PURE magic!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barbara on December 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
First of all, this author does a tremendous job of putting a book together that's very hard to set down. It's very quick read giving the reader a feeling of reading a girl's journal and developing into a story as the girl, Gretel, grows up. The relationships between Gretel and her mother and her cousin and her bestfriend,Jill, are the center of this book.
This is a story of real life. There's the brother who has everything going for him, including a chance to go to Harvard. Gretel watches the strength that her mother shows in the open but hears her mother's emotional pain at night. Gretel is brought up around strong women and knows how to survive and be a strong woman herself.
I enjoyed this book tremendously and will recommend it to anyone looking for a very good book to read.
Gretel and the people in her life are very relateable. She endures loosing family members, money struggles, resentful teen years.
Upon finishing this book there is a moral to the story. Money and social position don't always equal happiness and love.
Do pick this book up and read it. It's a very quickstory with a lot to say.
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