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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
Gretel's life and relationships make engaging reading. Alice Hoffman writes stories that seem real and that speak to my teenager students.Published 4 days ago by Donna Faircloth
Beautifully narrated, but with a thin story, unusual for Alice Hoffman, whom I read for her astounding originality and whimsy...but still a good readPublished 9 days ago by anna mancini
After reading and loving "The Museum of Extraordinary Things," I decided to read all of Alice Hoffman's books, starting at the beginning. Read morePublished 25 days ago by Shafer
I enjoyed Alice Hoffman's writing and exploration of the relationships between a young girl and her mother, aunt, best friend, and brother. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rebecca Mugridge
Gretel and Jill are best friends, growing up in Rhode Island. This novel explores the affect that love has on us all. Read morePublished on July 14, 2012 by Kathryn C. Hogan
"Local Girls" was assigned as our last required reading assignment in my tenth grade English class just before summer vacation. Read morePublished on July 1, 2012 by Mia
Local Girls is not a perfect book, by any means. There are gaps in characterization and frustrating absences of information. Read morePublished on March 17, 2012 by Jennifer Leigh
This was one of those magical little books that you come across once in a blue moon.
Local Girls is a short novel divided into little snippets of stories. Read more