The Locals

The Locals

by Jonathan Dee

Price: $28.00(Hardcover)
Published: August 08, 2017
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From the Publisher: “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. 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.

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What We Say

In his wise and wonderful novel, Pulitzer Prize finalist Jonathan Dee writes about a Berkshires community struggling to keep up a middle class standard of life. The novel opens in 2001, right after 9/11 when the small town of Howland, Massachusetts is still reeling emotionally and economically from the attack and the recession of previous years. Even their town is hurting thanks to lost tax revenue from an historic estate. Enter hedge fund billionaire Philip Hadi. Fearing another 9/11, Hadi has flipped from a summer resident to a full-time member of the community and now he's even willing to take on the role of First Selectman (mayor to you urbanites). Does he really want to help the people of Howland or does he just want to keep the town and its services running smoothly for his own personal comfort? Does it matter? This book is a literary dissection of our entire country. Whose fault is the predicament we are in? Is it the hedge fund billionaires who believe in the privatization of everything and live for money? Or is it the locals who have given up their independent spirit, if they ever truly had one? Dee doesn't provide an answer, but the message is clear: what happens to one, happens to all. That might be why every character in this novel is given equal importance including Mark, a contractor turned would-be real estate entrepreneur; his desperate wife Karen , working a low-level administrative job to keep their daughter in private school; his sister Candace, who worries about her aging, impoverished parents; and his brother Gerry, a failure, who writes angry libertarian blogs under a pseudonym. We watch these people slink away from their hopes and dreams and we see their self-esteem erode. Dee says maybe the deck is stacked against us, maybe we can't afford ideals anymore or never could or maybe we are looking for easy answers to difficult problems. In this terrifically real and realistic novel, Dee says we are giving up on ourselves and our dreams. -- Janet Rotter

What Others Say

“The residents of a small town in the Berkshires have their world overturned by a billionaire in their midst. . . . [The Locals] plays both as political allegory and kaleidoscopic character study. An absorbing panorama of small-town life and a study of democracy in miniature.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Good old social novels are hard to come by these days, great ones harder still. Leave it to [Jonathan] Dee to fill the void with a book that’s not only great but so frighteningly timely that the reader will be forced to wonder how he managed to compose it before the last election cycle.”—Booklist (starred review) “Engrossing . . . 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. . . . [Dee] 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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review) “The Locals is a bold, vital, and view-expanding novel that thrills technically and emotionally. Jonathan Dee, big-hearted and masterly, summons up a small American town at precisely the right moment in our history, using his signature gifts (fairness, poetic precision in the language, affection for all) to cast light over a dark time—to suggest the root cause of our political problems, but also a way forward.”—George Saunders, New York Times bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo “In this moving study of how the housing bubble’s burst sets a small town’s citizens against each other, Jonathan Dee tells a must-read story for our age. Class struggle, tyranny, America’s disillusionment after 9/11—The Locals creates a delicately drawn world impossible to forget.”—Mary Karr, New York Times bestselling author of The Liar’s Club and Lit “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 “‘A palpable contract between the very rich and the people who distrust them the least,’ Joan Didion once said of the Getty Villa. Jonathan Dee understands this impossible, enduring contract, sometimes called populism—other times, theft—as well as Didion does. The Locals might be the first great Occupy novel of the twenty-first century.”—Rachel Kushner, New York Times bestselling author of The Flamethrowers “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 “Blackly comic, effortlessly authoritative, The Locals is almost criminal in its perceptiveness about the screwed state of the American union. Jonathan Dee is a modern American master.”—Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland and The Dog

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About The Author
Jonathan Dee
Jonathan Dee is the author of seven novels, including The Locals, A Thousand Pardons, and The Privileges, which was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, he teaches in the graduate writing program at Syracuse University.
Release Info
  • $28.00 (Hardcover)
  • August 08, 2017
  • Random House
  • 400
  • 0812993225
  • 9780812993226