By now my readers should not be surprised by a review of yet another Alice Hoffman novel, but “Local Girls” is not the center of Hoffman’s authorship. Here she is more socially conscientious than I prefer for the “everyday’s magic” author. “Local Girls” is a series of titled chapters about Gretel and the people in her immediate circle. I have read other reviews, wherein the book is characterised as a collection of short stories, but I read it as a novel.
Writing about reviews, other reviews (I realize that is a very generic term) are less than enthusiastic about “Local Girls”, but one of the features I liked in this book is the way, Hoffman writes around the central character of Gretel and the themes that in different ways influence the different characters.
Responsibility is one of the central themes in my opinion. Gretel dreams of leaving the suburbian hell of Franconia but stays to take care of her cancer-sick mother. The mother shirks responsibility for her kids, caving in to cancer, but her cousin and best friend wakes her and starts a catering business. Gretel’s friend, Jill, drops out of high school when she is pregnant and marries the less than bright father. Gretel’s brother abandons a Harvard future to work at a local grocery store and self-destruct with drugs. All the characters have to come to terms with their responsibilities.
A constant feature in Hoffman’s novels is the immanent belief that life holds the characters in its hand and will not let go. Long live Rilke’s ” Letters to a Young Poet”! This feature is one of my favorites in Hoffman’s authorship and it is noticeable in “Local Girls”. Not every character rides into the sunset and there is no grand the end, but quiet optimism shines over Gretel and Jill as they agree that they survived life so far.
I recommend “Local Girls” to readers who enjoy dramatic fiction and social realism.