Alice Hoffman casts her spell over a neighborhood filled with dreamers and dreams as she evokes the world of the Samuelsons, a family torn apart by tragedy and bound together by devotion. As Gretel grows up, she is witness to the breakup of her parents' marriage, the ups and downs of her cousin Margot's search for love, the deterioration of a brother who passes up Harvard for a job at the Food Star, and emotional explosions that shatter the suburban quiet...
|Publisher:||Penguin Group (USA)|
|Product dimensions:||5.44(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.85(d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Date of Birth:March 16, 1952
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974
Read an Excerpt
One thing I've learned is that strange things do happen. They happen all the time. Today, for instance, my best friend Jill's cat spoke. We were making brownies in the kitchen when we heard it say, Let me out. Well, we rushed to the back door and did exactly that. We experienced a miracle and now we're looking for more, although Franconia, the town we live in, is not known for such things. Jill and I have known each other our whole lives. One house separates our houses but we act as if it doesn't exist. We met before we were born and we'll probably still know each other after we die. At least, that's the way we're planning it.
My mother and I left for Atlantic City so quickly I didn't have time to call Jill. We told people we were on our way to visit an old aunt, but really our departure had something to do with love, or the lack of it, and the aunt doesn't even exist. I know other people whose mothers suddenly pack up when their fathers drink or scream, but for us this is more serious. My mother doesn't do things like go to Atlantic City. She doesn't order room service and cry. She once told me that anyone who gets married had better like herself, because there's nobody else in this world that she'll ever really know, not truly.
We stayed in our room in Atlantic City for three days, and didn't go outside once, thanks to room service. We ate like pigs and didn't even bother to brush our teeth until my mother's cousin Margot, who got a divorce last summer and changed the color of her hair to give herself an emotional lift, came to get us. She drove to New Jersey in the Ford Mustang convertible that she refused to let her ex have, since he'd taken her very soul and raked it over red-hot coals.
"Get dressed right now," she told us.
We were wearing our bathrobes and watching an old cowboy movie, which, for some reason, made my mother cry. Maybe it was all those men on horseback who were so steadfast and loyal. Their own men had disappointed them, but somehow Margot and my mother both had hope for improvement. Frankly, I had more faith in the horses.
"I mean now, Frances," Margot said, and because she meant business, my mother actually dressed and put on some lipstick and we went to a Chinese restaurant where the drinks came with little paper umbrellas, which I kept as a souvenir.
Listen to me, Gretel, Margot told me when we'd gone back to the room to pack and my mother was finally out of earshot. When a marriage breaks up, it's the children who suffer, so baby, hold on tight. That's why Margot was relieved that she and Tony had never had children, although she became teary whenever she saw a baby.
"Margot is my best friend, but she's completely full of baloney," my mother whispered as we were throwing our suitcases into the trunk. "Take it all with a grain of salt. Maybe even a whole shaker."
Say what you want about the Mustang, it may be gorgeous, but it has very little trunk space. I had to sit in the back seat with the hair dryer and the makeup case on my lap all the way to Franconia, but that didn't stop me from keeping my fingers crossed and wishing we'd wind up someplace other than home.
We're in Florida for one week, the week when the turtles die on the beach and there are jellyfish in the ocean. As soon as we checked into the hotel, my brother, Jason, who likes to pretend he's not part of our family, went out to study tide pools and no one has seen him since. My parents are here to try to revitalize their marriage, which seems a pretty impossible feat to all outside observers. Gretel honey, don't get high hopes, Margot had already warned me when she took me shopping for a bathing suit, a mission which can give anyone with a less than perfect body a complete nervous breakdown. When it's over, it's over, Margot told me, and I had the distinct feeling that she was right.
Long before the plane touched down in Miami we could hear our parents arguing, and at the hotel they locked themselves in their room. If you ask me, working so hard at being married can backfire. It certainly is making my father nastier than usual. Not that his bad temper affects me. I keep my own counsel. I go my own way. I order room service and eat Linzer tortes and shrimp scampi alone in the room I was supposed to be sharing with Jason, not that he was ever planning to show up. Even though I was across the hall from my parents, I could still hear them fighting.
I went out to the beach late, later than I'd be allowed to if anyone knew I was alive. That's where I met Jonathan Rabbit, who is now in love with me. He is known as Jack Rabbit, which makes me laugh out loud. Doesn't it figure that the boy who fell for me would be a rodent? He lives in Atlanta and is in the ninth grade, and frankly he's terribly boring. I let him kiss me once, but believe me, I did not hear bells. I only heard the jellyfish sloshing around in the water and the noisy beat of Jack Rabbit's heart.
Florida didn't do anything for my family, but at least it's starting to be spring. Jill and I are keeping our eyes open for miracles. Jack Rabbit calls me constantly and that is something of a miracle. He writes so often you'd think his fingers would start to cramp up. I bring his letters to school, so everyone is well aware that I have a boyfriend in Atlanta. They'll never meet him. They'll never know it's actually possible for a boy to be so boring you'd agree to kiss him just to get him to shut up. I should get paid to listen to him when he calls on the phone. I should get a dollar fifty an hour. Minimum.
Jill told me that when you're really in love, you know right away. I'm not exactly sure how this happens. Is it like a flash of lightning? Like an angel tapping you on the shoulder? Or is it similar to choosing a puppy? You think you're picking the cutest one, but really you wind up going home with the one who keeps insisting on climbing into your lap. That's how we got our dog, Revolver. We thought he was so crazy about us, but it turned out that Labrador retrievers adore everyone. Well, maybe that's what love is, a state of mind ready to grace anyone willing to accept it. Anyone who cares.
School's out. Hurray. Life, however, is still so boring that I'm writing to Jack Rabbit every day. I go to the pool with Jill and take along my notebook and write until I think I'm going blind, then jump into the deep end. We are not going on vacation because no one in my house is talking to each other, so going anywhere together is definitely out. My brother's on the summer science team at the high school, so he's never home. My father is on an exercise kick and has joined a gym, so he's never around either.
My mother and Margot and I spend a lot of time going to movies. It's dark and it's cool and no one knows if you're crying, except for the person sitting directly beside you. Margot buys me anything I want, even Jordan almonds, which are so terrible for your teeth. She's the kind of person who knows about love. She has men calling her in the middle of the night, but they're all no good, or so she says. Just like Jill, she insists she'll know when she meets the right man. But unlike Jill, she tells me exactly what love's evidence is. I'll just want to kiss him till I die. To me, this doesn't sound like something to hope for, but people seem to hope for it all the same.
Jill is camping with her parents, and has sent me a postcard that it has happened. The miracle we've been searching for, the great event, the angel's secret. It's love, it really is. It's the boy in the tent next to hers who she sneaks out to meet after her parents are asleep. I sit on my front stoop while Jill is away and think things over. I've smartened up and am no longer waiting for the mailman. Jack Rabbit isn't writing anymore. He went to camp to be a junior counselor and I guess he broke his arm or fell in love with somebody new. Doesn't it figure that I would miss his letters like crazy? Sometimes I read the old ones late at night, and I wonder what was I thinking when I got them. How could I have thought he was boring? Well, I'm the boring one now. When Jill comes back I may have to lie to her. I may tell her Jack Rabbit died in a canoeing accident. My name was the last word he said, or so they tell me. My name brought him comfort with his last dying breath.
Jill and I are not in the same class at school. We never are. The administration doesn't want people who like each other to be together. They think it builds character when they stick people who hate one another in the same room, day after day, and nobody winds up getting killed or maimed. I'm not supposed to know that Jill's mother is seeing a psychiatrist, just as Jill is not supposed to know my parents are no longer sleeping in the same room. My mother spends her nights on a quilt on my floor, and she doesn't cry until she thinks I'm asleep.
Recently, Margot and I went out for ice cream. We had butterscotch sundaes with vanilla ice cream. Margot asked for my advice. She had spotted my father at an expensive restaurant, the kind he'd never take us to, with some woman she'd never seen before and she didn't know whether or not to tell my mother. I have never been much of a tattletale myself, although I understand that there are times when the truth serves its purpose. This didn't seem to be one of those times. For all we knew, this woman could be some business associate, although Margot and I probably would have both been willing to bet our lives that she wasn't.
Don't tell. That was the advice I came up with. My mother was already crying and sleeping on the floor, what good would the truth do her now? Margot didn't eat any of her sundae, and when she offered it to me I realized I was sick to my stomach. I think I've pretty much figured out that in this world, it's better to stick to hot fudge.
On Halloween Jill wore all black and made ears out of felt which she glued to a plastic headband. She was a black cat. She had a tail that was braided out of three silk scarves. I borrowed thirty silver bangle bracelets from my grandmother. I was a fortune-teller. We should have suspected something when we saw the moon. It was orange and so big we couldn't believe it. It was like we could take one big step, and there we'd be: moon girls who had fallen off the rim of the world. My brother laughed at us. Weren't we a little too old for trick-or-treating? Well of course we were, but we didn't care. We went up and down the block, collecting candy; then we walked beyond the high school through the field so we could smoke cigarettes beside the creek. Jill had stolen the cigarettes from her mother's purse, and I had gotten the matches from my grandmother.
"As long as you're not smoking cigarettes," my grandmother had said to me, which pretty much ruined the whole thing. I couldn't enjoy a single puff. Grandma Frieda was visiting for the weekend and she had the ability to put a hex on any form of high jinks. She was sleeping on my floor too, and it was getting pretty crowded there in my room. I could never find my sneakers. I couldn't find my underwear. Every night, as I fell asleep, I'd hear bits of whispered conversation, and every single one seemed to include the word sorrow.
Jill had been practicing and knew how to blow smoke rings. She was blowing a misty ring when some guys from the high school intent on trouble approached. Jill looked older than she was, and even in costume, you could tell she was beautiful. The high school guys tried to kiss her, and when she refused, they grabbed her. The whole thing happened so fast I just sat there, as though I were the audience and the whole thing was a play. And then it wasn't. I hit one of the guys, and all of my silver bracelets were so heavy he fell backwards. The shock of me smashing one of them gave us time to run. We ran and ran, like we really could get to the moon if we had to. We ran until we turned into smoke; we could float across lawns and drift under windows and doors.
"I can't believe you did that," Jill said when we finally made it home. She had lost her tail and her ears, but her face was shining. "You hit him."
I felt great for days.
We don't do holidays. We go to my grandma Frieda's for Passover, but we skip Chanukah, which my father insists is trivial, and Thanksgiving, which he considers a meaningless ritual. We do, however, spend every Christmas at Margot's house. It's a holiday she feels entitled to celebrate since she was married to Tony Molinaro for all those years. My father never goes to Margot's, and this year Jason wasn't there either. It was just us, and we decorated the tree with all of Tony's mother's beautiful old ornaments. There's an angel that's always been my favorite, fashioned out of silvery glass. When Tony's mother was alive she assured me it would bring good luck to whoever hung it on the tree. Tony's mother always preferred Margot to her own son, and when they broke up she took to her bed and was dead by the following spring.
Even after Margot and Tony divorced, Margot always included her ex-mother-in-law in the festivities. Tony's mother must have been at least ninety. Her hands shook as she held out the angel. "Here's the thing about luck," she told me on her last Christmas. "You don't know if it's good or bad until you have some perspective."
This year we made a toast to the old lady and Margot actually cried. Right as we finished the tree, snow started to fall. We all rushed to the front window to look. It was the kind of snow that you hardly ever see, so heavy and beautiful you fall in love with winter, even though you know you'll have to shovel in the morning.
Margot had made a turkey with stuffing, a noodle kugel, and a white cake topped with coconut that looked like the snow outside. After dinner, she and my mother put on aprons and did the dishes and laughed. I let them listen to Elvis's Blue Christmas; I hardly ever saw my mother having a good time, so how could I complain?
In Jill's family Christmas was a big deal, and I knew when I went over to her house in the morning she'd have a dozen great presents to show me and I'd have to try not to be jealous. Jill and I had given each other bottles of White Musk, our favorite scent. I envied Jill just about everything, but I didn't feel jealous right then, listening to Elvis in Margot's house. Truthfully, there was nowhere else I'd rather be. Lucky for us, Margot lived right around the corner from us. Her house was our house, and vice versa, unless my father was at home. Margot and my mother intended to be neighbors forever; they had dozens of plans, but not all of their plans were working out.
I'd overheard my father talking on the phone. He was intending to leave as soon as the weather got better. As soon as he could break the news to us, he'd be gone. He was in a holding pattern, that's what he said, but he wasn't holding on to us, that much was certain. I didn't tell my mother what I'd learned. I didn't tell anyone. I wanted to see Margot and my mother dance in the kitchen when the dishes were done and drying on the rack. I wanted to see them throw their aprons on the floor.
That night, when we walked home, my mother put her arm around me and told me to wish on a star. She still believed in things like that. We stood there in the snow, and try as I might, I didn't see a single star. But I lied. I said that I did, and I wished anyway. We stood there while my mother tried in vain to see that same star. My fingers were freezing, so I put my hands in my pockets. The angel was there. I knew that if I tried to thank Margot, she'd tell me to cut it out, she'd say it was nothing, but it was definitely something to me.
It was late, but we could hear traffic on the Southern State Parkway, even though it was Christmas, and snowing so hard. You had to wonder who all these people in their cars were leaving behind and who they were driving toward, and if they knew that in the distance, the echo of their tires on the asphalt sounded like a river, and that to someone like me, it could seem like the miracle I'd been looking for.
Reprinted from LOCAL GIRLS by Alice Hoffman by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by Alice Hoffman.
Table of Contents
|Tell the Truth||51|
|How to Talk to the Dead||61|
|Bake at 350°||87|
|The Rest of Your Life||119|
|The Boy Who Wrestled with Angels||151|
|Examining the Evidence||145|
|Still Among the Living||165|
On Thursday, June 17th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Alice Hoffman to discuss Local Girls.
Moderator: Welcome, Alice Hoffman! Thank you for joining us online this evening to chat about your new book, Local Girls. How are you doing tonight?
Alice Hoffman: I am fine. Thank you for having me here.
Andrew D. from New York City: There is much talk among the characters about fate and luck, yet in addition to the happenings beyond control (cancer), many of the characters are forced to pay for their decisions and actions. Do you feel fate or action/consequences has a stronger pull? Or do they work in tandem?
Alice Hoffman: That is such a good question; unfortunately, I don't know the answer. I guess I feel they work together and that you can try to kind of carve out your own fate, but that is all you can do -- try.
T. Greenwood from Ocean Beach, CA: Your prose is incredibly lyrical. I am curious who your favorite writers are...and do you read when you are working on a book? (Are you influenced/inspired by the language of specific authors?)
Alice Hoffman: I think when I am working on a book, I try not to read at all. I have a rhythm, and I don't want to interrupt it with the rhythm of anybody else's prose. I was influenced primarily by what I read in my childhood, mostly fairy tales. But at this point, I only read when I am on vacation.
Pamela Rice Hahn from Ohio: The last paragraph of Practical Magic (except for the part about pepper on your mashed potatoes) is a perfect example of the wonderful way you mix folklore and emotion in your stories. I get the sense you believe personality to not only be a result of the environment but that the environment is a very real part of the person, too. Is that the case?
Alice Hoffman: I guess I always feel that the environment has a life of its own, and when I am writing, the houses, weather, et cetara are almost as if they are characters for me. They are a living part of the story for me.
MMuntz@yahoo.com from Oyster Bay, NY: This book could have taken on epic form; there are several well-developed and important characters, and they are followed over several years. Instead, it seems to capture intensely detailed snapshots of several important moments in their lives. The effect is refreshing, but do you have any regrets about not expanding the story further?
Alice Hoffman: I think what you say is very interesting, and thank you very much -- that was my goal, to take moments of people's lives. The book started out as a single short story, and once I wrote that story, I realized a universe had been created, and I wasn't done with the characters. I have always been interested in the form of interrelated stories, and for me this book is almost a novel, but you are right -- I wanted to take pieces of their lives, almost as if the book were a puzzle, and when you put all the pieces together, it formed a life.
Moderator: What are your plans for your summer vacation?
Alice Hoffman: I am going to a little farm that I have and am going to write the second half of my novel and watch the birds.
Jimmy from Albany, NY: I have recently returned from a trip to Europe. In Europe I was asked numerous times about Long Island. It appears that many overseas and even here in the States have this Fitzgerald-esque view of Long Island as this paradise a stone's throw from NYC. What to you are the best characteristics of Long Island? And what are some unique qualities about Long Island that you treasure?
Alice Hoffman: That is funny, because there used to be this attitude that it was a Fitzgerald place with money and suburban life, then it took a wrong turn with Joey Buttafucco and Amy Fisher. Suddenly there was this other side of Long Island, a side I was more familiar with growing up there. What is interesting about Long Island is that it is like Los Angeles in that it has always been a place of dreams, but I am not really aware of the European sensibility of what it means to them. To me it means a lot of Burger Kings.
Pac87@aol.com from xx: It seems as though certain decisions on the part of the characters might have directed their lives in a more productive manner. To what degree are they victims of fate?
Alice Hoffman: I am not sure of the answer to that. I think it is a combination -- partially fate, illness, disaster, love, disease, etc. And partially it is the way characters react to the situations. I always think two different characters can be in the same situation and react very differently. In Local Girls, I was not sure what was going to happen, which was what made it so interesting to me -- to go on that journey with them.
Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: The notion of a tight-lipped family being eaten away internally by problems has traditionally been a southern Gothic stereotype, yet Gretel's family seems to fit that mold rather well. Was this a conscious genre-busting decision? Or is a Long Island life more similar to that of Faulkner's Compson family than fiction would lead you to believe?
Alice Hoffman: I don't think this family is tight-lipped. They seem to scream, rant, and rave, et cetera. For me, it was not a conscious decision. It just sort of came alive for me. I realized halfway through that the model was more Hansel And Gretel than Faulkner. It feels to me as if I am telling a modern fairy tale about a brother and sister lost in suburbia.
Lenea734@aol.com from Plano, TX: By the conclusion, Jill seems to have the potential to follow in the same cycles as the characters of the previous generation, but Gretel seems too cautiously aware to fall prey to her family's mistakes. She also ends up with a tattoo symbolizing courage. Gretel spends her youth obtaining that courage in small steps. Is it her courage that keeps her from repeating familial mistakes?
Alice Hoffman: Interesting question. Part of me feels they are in it together, and even though they make very different choices, they both succeed in the end. Jill, who seems as if she is ruining her life, does exactly what her mother doesn't want her to do, which is get pregnant very young. They both don't follow the traditional path set out for them, and that is just because different people find their happiness in different ways.
Elizabeth from Michigan: How do you feel about the filmed versions of your books?
Alice Hoffman: There has only been one -- "Practical Magic" -- and I liked it very much. I thought the women in it were terrific. It is not the book, but it is fun to see.
Marianna from Stratford, CT: Ms. Hoffman, I've been an ardent fan of yours since 1983, when I read Illumination Night. I have bought dozens of copies of that book for friends because it does such a masterful job describing agoraphobia. Did you do a lot of psychiatric research? It's an amazing portrait.
Alice Hoffman: Thank you so much -- I really appreciate that. I am not one who does much for research. That book took place in Martha's Vineyard, and I had never been there before, until afterward, and it turned out to be very accurate. I did some research on agoraphobia, but I am happy it came out accurate. Thank you for that comment.
Nicki Britton from Brooklyn, NY: A comic sense arises amidst the chaos in these characters' lives. Do you think laughter can be a healing force in the face of tragedy?
Alice Hoffman: Absolutely! I think that is part of the reason I wrote this book; it was a dark part in my life, and I wrote it to remind myself of all the reasons to live, and one of those reasons was laughter and remembering how to enjoy yourself.
T. Greenwood from Ocean Beach, CA: You are so prolific. Do you write full-time?
Alice Hoffman: I do write full-time, and I write every day, but I have been doing it for 25 years, so I don't know if I am prolific or just old.
Niki from Niki_palek@yahoo.com: A sense of supernatural surfaces here (as in Practical Magic), when the ghost of the grandmother appears. But this instance occurs during a shift of perspective from the first to third person. Was there a particular reason for taking Gretel out of the role of storyteller when her grandmother's ghost appears?
Alice Hoffman: It wasn't conscious, but what I wanted to do with these stories is to give an overview of this family, and I think we could really see Gretel if we saw her from every perspective, from first and third person. These stories just felt right being told in this manner, and that story just felt right being told that way.
Pam from Ohio: I'm curious. When you write, do you watch your stories unfold (much like you watch those birds)? Is it a film that you "transcribe" as you create, characters who speak to you, or both?
Alice Hoffman: I think I see it as it happens. For me it is the process of writing that moves the fiction. I start with certain elements like characters or place, but when the novel starts to come alive I almost feel as if I am channeling it. Then for other drafts I have to do work, but the first time around it is as if I am playing the piano and the song just comes out.
Kathy from Bloomingdale, IL: Hi, Alice. Will you be appearing in the Chicago area anytime soon for a book signing/reading to promote Local Girls?
Alice Hoffman: Thanks, I wish I were, but I am not touring with this book. I am working on another book. Sorry.
Corinne from Cardiff, CA: Who is Alice Hoffman's biggest influence?
Alice Hoffman: I have to say my biggest literary hero is Grace Paley. I looked to her in both literature and the social actions she was involved with. I was very influenced by the children's books that I read.
Atalya from Cardiff, CA: The second shift away from Gretel's voice occurs when she falls in love for the first time. Throughout her narration, she displays a keen sense of detail -- is she untrustworthy as a narrator when consumed by love?
Alice Hoffman: I guess probably everybody is untrustworthy when they are consumed by love. Good point!
Moderator: If the Y2K bug wreaks its havoc, what three books would you make sure you have in your bunker to read by the light of your power generator?
Alice Hoffman: The Catcher In The Rye, Mary Poppins, and the Bible.
JWC901@aol.com from NJ: What do you think creates the internal difference between Margot and Jason? She seems to be a fairly positive dreamer, despite repeated disappointments, whereas he was full of promise and allowed his misery to corner him into a life of mediocrity.
Alice Hoffman: I guess that is part of the puzzle. Margot is just an optimist -- horrible things happen to her and she continues to see good in life, fall in love, et cetera. Jason responds to shakedowns in his life by just shutting down. Partially, I think that is just their natures: One is full of hope and one wasn't.
Jesa from Portland, Oregon: No question -- just wanted to say thanks for all the great books. I was ill for two months and "discovered" you -- you paint wonderful pictures!
Alice Hoffman: Thank you so much. I appreciate those kinds words; it means a lot to me.
Moderator: Thank you, Alice Hoffman! Best of luck with your new book, Local Girls. Before you leave, do you have any closing comments for the online audience?
Alice Hoffman: I just really appreciate your response, kind words, and the attention you gave my work; it is great to be in touch with you. Thank you for having me here.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although Alice Hoffman is not for everyone, I have acquired a taste for her style and characters. This book does NOT disappoint. As with all of her works, I was sucked in right away and enjoyed the entire ride. I am always sad to finish her books.
This is the first book of Alice Hoffman's I have read and I loved it! She makes you feel the characters' joy and sorrow almost as if it were your own, and with such realism that it's hard to imagine it's fiction. It will touch your heart. I only wish the story was longer!
I read the whole book at work on one shift. I just couldn't stop! I loved it so much I shipped it to my sister in Arizona, who liked it so much she sent it to my sister-in-law, who sent it to my other sister-in-law. I'm not sure where it is now! My sisers all said the same thing... you just can't put this book down until it's finished. Alice Hoffman is an amazing writer!
A quick read and with no heavy plot, but still this story was touching in its ability to capture the joys and sorrows of life fully lived. The novel covers an approximately ten year period in a young girl's (Gretel's) life where she experiences the disintegration of her parents' marriage, their subsequent divorce and her father's remarriage to a much younger woman. She lives through her mother's battle with cancer and her death, the loss of her brother to drugs, and the upheaval in her relationship with her best friend Jill, when Jill finds herself pregnant and subsequently married in her junior year in high school. Gretel observes her older cousin Margot's repeated attempts and failures (and ultimately success) in searching for love and Gretel suffers her own broken love affair as well. Despite all the sadness, this was a powerful and upbeat little book that pulls at your heartstrings and champions the romantic hopeful nature that takes both a realistic look at life while refusing to give up on hope.
Life is never fair. That is what Gretel and Jill learn while they grow up in Alice Hoffman¿s Local Girls. Gretel¿s family has never been stable, and neither has Jill¿s. Between crazy parents, divorces, death, babies, and the repercussions of each, they learn that life can turn out all right if you have a friend and stick it through. Both girls raised themselves with the help of Margot, Gretel¿s aunt, who chain smokes and never judges. With both their mothers deteriorating, physically and mentally, and no dad that wants to claim them as their own, the girls turn to each other and their romantic high school boyfriends who they hope will change their lives for the better.
Hoffman writes with true eloquence and gripping dialogue. I was instantly pulled into the novel, feeling both girls¿ pain and elations. I was so immersed in Local Girls that I felt Jill and Gretel had been my life-long friends and that I was walking through life with them. This book is perfect for anyone who has an intricate life, or anyone who needs a good read on a lazy Saturday. Beautifully written with so much care, this is another top book for my bookshelf.
Her father divorces her caring mother to marry a younger woman; they move to an upscale part of the neighborhood and can barely be bothered to send the child support check each month. Her once Harvard bound brother takes a turn for the worse when he begins a life of drug use and only comes home to steal money. His best friend, also a good friend of Gretel, disapears. Gret's best friend in the world is pregnant. Her mother suffers a hard life battling cancer. Gretle must survive the endless heartache with only the shoulder of her cousin Margot to lean on. Margot is passionet and in search for love. The book is so involving I read the entire thing in only a couple of hours. It is an easy read but highly recomended by me. It has inspired me to try some more of Alice Hoffman's titles. This was the first of hers I had read and I am hoping for more like this one! This is without a doubt my favorite book!
In rich prose leavened with glistening wit and rueful perspicacity Alice Hoffman brings us her 12th novel, Local Girls. Skillfully interweaving a series of related vignettes, offered by alternating narrators, the author divines the hearts and minds of a family plagued by loss yet sustained by love. The Local Girls for whom we come to care are Gretel Samuelson, her mother, Franny, her mother's cousin, Margot, 'who got a divorce last summer and changed the color of her hair to give herself an emotional lift,' and Gretel's best friend, Jill. Franny is also divorced, miserably so, spending her nights on a quilt beside her daughter's bed. Home is Franconia, the suburb in which they were 'doomed to live.' It is here that 12-year-old Gretel and Jill sneak out at night to exact vengeance upon those who have offended them - they write with pieces of coal on a tattle-tale shopkeeper's garage door, pour rancid buttermilk into a strict teacher's garbage cans, and spread paint on the prized car of a father who groped them when they babysat. But despite the rewards of retaliation, as Gretel relates, it was a bad summer. Her brother Jason, handsome, ingratiating, and winner of every science award, is headed for Harvard and a brilliant career. But he changed. In Gretel's words, he 'appeared to have undergone a lobotomy.' He'd 'gotten himself a job at the Food Star, in the deli department, and something had shifted. He was starting to seem comfortable in the deli.' He also grew comfortable with drugs, eventually stealing to support his heroin habit. 'What was happening to our family, anyway?' Gretel asks. Her mother becomes ill; her father remarries. Her home is a shambles; the kitchen gives her the shivers as Margot and Franny are beginning a catering business. 'They had both recovered from cancer scares, failed marriages, and lost hope; in their opinion, dirt could wait. That was also the summer Jill became cynical: 'Before that, before all the sickness and heat, she was the sweetest girl you'd ever met. But lately she saw the dark underside of everything...........Everything was bad news in Jill's opinion. Everything was a game you couldn't win.' So it would seem, for Jill discovers she is pregnant by Eddie, 'the boy that everyone wanted, but not for keeps.' 'Gorgeous and stupid,' he is described as one who hadn't been told the earth was round and thought Abraham Lincoln was a brand of toothpaste. When her mother again falls ill, Gretel 'couldn't help but think that the world was a crueler place than anyone had ever dared to suggest. You might even find yourself believing that fair itself was a meaningless concept, one which would only deceive you, in the end.' Lives spliced with comedy and tragedy are the heart of Local Girls. It is a tribute to the power of family, and the strength of redeeming love. Once again, Alice Hoffman has proven herself to be an outstanding chronicler of life's pitfalls and joys.
I never have read an Alice Hoffman book before, but this book took me by suprise. The story was so moving. I cried at the end.
I started reading this book at 4:00pm and finished at 6:30pm. A true storyteller, Hoffman intertwines her marvellous gift with characters that never stop giving, to make it an experience you will never forget. A story centered around women, love, and friendhips.
when i closed this book, i said aloud, 'this is the best book i've read in a long, long time.'
This collection of short stories is often sad, but in a beautiful way, with growth and hope. It reminds me of a close-up shot of a broken sidewalk, all dirty and cracked, with 3 beautiful flowers struggling to grow out of it. They grow strong and all the more lovely for where they are and how hard it was to get there. As always, Alice Hoffman's writing is thought-provoking and full of insight into characters and thier thoughts. Left me with a quiet, peaceful, good feeling.
Local Girls by Alice Hoffman. For those of you who don't know---she is my favorite author (not withstanding John Steinbeck---and this is the best of hers to date.It is about a one-of-a-kinder girl who grows up with a mother who has cancer (sometimes in remission), her brother (who is brilliant but sometimes abuses drugs) and a cousin or aunt (I forget which) who is just 15 years older and very close with Gretel (the main character). The mother and cousin/aunt have a catering biz ran from the mother's kitchen and Gretel helps them. She has a best friend (Jill) and they have everything in common until Jill falls in love with and becomes impregnated by a loser. Now their worlds are different and Gretel has to make/find her own world.Wonderfully drawn characters, beautifully drawn scenes, tearfully drawn climaxes, and an ending that comes way too soon but at a fitting time and place.If you like to read books by and/or about women---please read Alice Hoffman. She is wonderful.
I was really excited to read Local Girls because Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately I didn't feel like this book was as good as the others I've read by her.The Local Girls must be Gretel, the main character, and her best friend, Jill. They are teenage neighbors who exact revenge with vandalism on people who have wronged them. Gretel's brother is a science genius in high school, but when he graduates he becomes a drug addict. Gretel's mom and her mom's cousin Margot are best friends who open a catering business together after they have both been left by their husbands for other women. Each character was really tragic but other than divorce I didn't see the cause for everyone's dysfunction. It was a really choppy, disjointed story.My favorite character was Margot because she made fun for herself in creative ways.I recommend skipping Local Girls and instead reading Alice Hoffman's superior novels, The Probable Future, The River King, The Story Sisters, or Practical Magic. If you decide to read Local Girls anyway, the good thing is that, "All author profits from this edition are being donated to breast cancer research and breast cancer care centers."I really love the cover, which was illustrated by Maggie Taylor. I am thankful I read Local Girls because it introduced me to an amazing artist!
Roses. Cancer. Growing up. Drugs. This material seems familiar, but I don't really mind that Hoffman's themes are so well-developed; it's still an enjoyable ride. Two main takeaways: I wonder if Jason was a prototype for Sam in Skylight Confessions. That type of character is so hard to accept and understand, and I'm glad she's exploring the theme of drug use. And Hoffman's descriptions of death by cancer are, as usual, lyrical and gorgeous. "Objects were not as defined or as singular as they once had been. An apple was a beautiful as a kiss. Her daughter's face was no different from the moon." That's the kind of writing that keeps me coming back to Alice Hoffman.
Alice Hoffman's prose floats and envelopes the reader - somewhere just this side of poetry
Another awesome book by Alice Hoffman. It's so hard to explain what it is I like so much about her books. Her writing style is so unlike any other I've read. What's even more interesting with this particular book is that each chapter does not take place directly after the previous chapter. Sometimes days have gone by, sometimes years. This really makes sense because not every day of someone's life is noteworthy.
The story is about two girls, Gretel and Jill and their families and lives. Both of their moms are ill albeit in different ways and Gretel's brother turns from scholar to a nobody. There are some very sad parts in the book but I found the whole thing gripping. I had trouble putting it down to get things done.
A lovely compilation of short stories that all fit together to a remembrance of teen angst. I true stunner.
Wow, most of the reviews (even the publisher reviews) are basically recitals of the entire plot...and some folks must have read a different book, because they aren't describing anything accurately from what I just finished... At any rate, the book starts off slow and seems unnecessarily tragic throughout, but has moments of transcendence. The ending leaves the reader with some sense of hope for the main character. Not her finest, but a solid addition and no reason not to try another of her offerings.
Loved this story about two best friends growing up through the years
I have been a fan of Alice Hoffmann for years and have read the majority of her work. Her words are not just words. With words, she makes stories that touch your heart. She has always touched mine. ~*~LEB~*~
Written as only Alice Hoffman can. At once ethereally lyrical and at the same time grounded in the everyday . A truly lovely book.