From the author of The Privileges, the residents of a small, struggling community in the Berkshires have their world overturned by a billionaire who, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, moves to town and is elected mayor.
...[a] magnificent new novel ... Dee has always trained a sharp eye on the tricky intersections between private and public life in his fiction. But in The Locals, he has outdone himself. The book is a transcendent look at the battered state of the American psyche in the interim between two key years in our recent history: 2001 and 2008 ... Dee circles all around his players, bringing alive their inner lives and interconnections ... With rueful sympathy and acuity, The Locals conjures all the cares and quandaries of flawed characters coping in a faith-corrosive world.
The Locals feels attuned to the broader currents of our culture, particularly the renewed tension between competing ideals of community and self-reliance ... there are lots of unhappy characters, all elegantly choreographed in a dance of discontent ... With this little town, this idyllic-looking version of America, Dee has constructed a world — harrowing but instructive — where no one feels content ... You don’t have to be a Pollyanna to believe that there is such a force as love in the world, and graciousness and selflessness, too. But those qualities are missing in these characters, as though they were suffering some kind of moral vitamin deficiency. Hardly any of these people are allowed even a moment of inspiration or elevation ... Amid the heat of today’s vicious political climate, The Locals is a smoke alarm. Listen up.
This novel is a big machine, and Dee drives it calmly, like a farmer inside the air-conditioned cockpit of a jumbo tractor pulling an 80-foot cultivator. He drives it perhaps too calmly. He has the intelligence to pull off a novel of this size but lacks, somehow, the killer instinct — the ability to move in for intensities of feeling and thought and action. He’s written a lukewarm book that seems far longer than its 383 pages. Consuming it is like being in one of those frustrating dreams in which you run and run but don’t go anywhere ... there are too many lumpy homilies in The Locals, sections that read like monologues from lesser Arthur Miller plays.