The Local News

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-02-09
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
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When fifteen-year-old Lydia Pasternakrs"s popular older brother Danny disappears late one summer night, she unwillingly becomes a celebrity in her community and an afterthought to her bereaved parents. In Dannyrs"s absence, Lydia blossoms from a bookish outcast to the center of attention, all while grappling with her grudging grief for a brother she never particularly liked. When an intriguing private investigator enters the picture, Lydia finds herself drawn into the search for clues to Dannyrs"s whereabouts. The shocking end to that trail of clues-an end that Lydia never prepares for-will haunt her for the rest of her life. An authentic and at times surprisingly funny dissection of public and private grief,The Local Newsis an accomplished, affecting debut.

Author Biography

Miriam Gershow was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin. Her stories have appeared in the Georgia Review, Black Warrior Review, and Quarterly West, among other journals. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.



After my brother went missing, my parents let me use their car whenever I wanted, even though I only had a learner's permit. They didn't enforce my curfew. I didn't have to ask to be excused from the dinner table. The dinner table, in fact, had all but disappeared, covered with posters of Danny, a box of the yellow ribbons that our whole neighborhood had tied around trees and mailboxes and car antennas, and piles of the letters we'd gotten from people praying for Danny's safe return or who thought they saw him hitchhiking along a highway a couple states away. I didn't have to do any more chores.

Years later, I joined a support group for siblings of missing or exploited kids. It was amazing how a group of like-minded individuals could make the most singular and self-defining of circumstances feel simply mundane. I suppose for some, such a thing would be normalizing, since everyone in the circle of couches and folding chairs had experienced equivalent tragedy. For me, it was deeply disconcerting. I had no idea how to compete with other people's misery. It was in that group that I heard about the two types of parents: clingers and drifters. The clingers became micromanagers and wildly overprotective, tightening the reins, imposing new rules, smothering their kids with unwanted attention, buying gifts like a canopy bed or a new stereo system. The drifters, on the other hand, lost themselves to some mysterious netherworld, existing on coffee and crackers and minutes of sleep per night. They forgot to take the garbage out. They let the kitchen floor grow sticky. They looked like they were listening when you spoke (they became expert at empathetic nodding), but really they were staring just past you, glassy-eyed. The concerns of the corporeal world became inconsequential to them, except for the fine, red-hot point of finding their child (not you; their other child). Aside from that, they, well, drifted.

My parents were drifters.

We couldn't keep the refrigerator stocked; its contents dwindled to bread heels and condiments in a matter of days. My mom started smoking again, years after having quit. Her energy was both frenetic and focused: she designed posters, concocted overly elaborate phone trees to recruit people for the area sweep searches, and added to her steadily growing stack of index cards, each one scribbled with a "clue" to help the police. Allergic to penicillin, she scrawled on one. Capricorn, she wrote on another. Born on night of a full moon. My father became quietly obsessed with the TV news--local, national, international, as if he couldn't rule out any possibility. Maybe Danny was part of the throngs of Bosnian Serb refugees; maybe he'd been victim to the floods in the Philippines. Dad could go days without speaking. He could sit for hours (six and a quarter, I counted one day) in his sunken chair without once getting up. And we kept running out of toilet paper. Over and over again we had to use tissues instead, until those ran out too and we moved to paper towels, which quickly clogged the pipes. I'd never before had to think about the supply of toilet paper in our household. It had always simply been there. I was fifteen. Up to that point, I'd believed that the world more or less worked--toilet paper sat on its roll, dinner was served hot at the table, everyone came home at the end of a day--simply because it was supposed to and it always had.

"There's no proper or improper way to grieve," the woman who ran the support group would say. I did not return after that first visit; the impulse, it quickly became clear, had been a mistake. The woman's face was chalky with powder, her cheeks too bright with rouge, her eyelashes clumped with mascara. The collar of her blouse rose up around her neck, tied into an improbably flouncy bow. The look of her offended me. She was all wrong; how was I supposed to take her as an authority? Other participants hunkered down low in

Excerpted from The Local News: A Novel by Miriam Gershow
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