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Friday, February 6, 2009

Local Knowledge by Liza Gyllenhaal eBook edition

This week got off to a slow start.  Kinda of like Goldilocks and the tree bears.  I tried three other books before I finally settled down and was able to actually read this one.  When it comes to the original three:  one was too boring, one was too depressing and the last one was written in a style I actually hated. 

So it was a relief to actually pick up a book that I could read more than the first chapter.  Local Knowledge is narrated by Maggie.  She tells the story by alternating along two distinct paths -- the present and the past.

Maggie is a precise and effective narrator.  She tells the story without sparing herself or glossing over her faults.  I could argue that some of the descriptions and the rehashing of the past are too long and possibly unnecessary.  But in the end, all of that background and all of those descriptions made the place and the characters live.  After awhile it was hard to remember that Red River, New York is really a fictional place.

This is a story about change.  Changes in community.  Changes in perceptions.  Changes in attitudes. It is about changing roles.

It is also a story about families and how they shape your life -- the resentments, the feuds, the quiet discontent.  About parents aging and dying and children growing up. 

And finally it is about friendships.  What we invest in them.  How easy it is to prejudge people and how seldom those prejudgments actually hold up. And the tempering of those prejudgments with experience, circumstances and time.  Ultimately friendships can alter us and our world view forever.

For a first novel, this cover a wide range of very complex themes.  It goes on my recommended list.

Here is what the publisher says:

From an exciting debut author, a novel about three people haunted by the mistakes of their past and their plunge into an uncertain future. Maddie Alden has always longed for more than her small town could offer. Now that it's being overrun by wealthy New Yorkers looking for a respite from the city, Maddie has gotten herself a lucrative new job in real estate. And her first sale brings her a charismatic new friend who is everything Maddie longs to be. Little does Maddie realize that the glamorous Anne will shake up her quiet marriage and will force Maddie to face the truth about the past, and the terrible secret she shares with her husband and his best friend.

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