Thursday, December 10, 2015

"Local Girls" by Alice Hoffman

I didn't even need a bookmark for this one. In other words, I scarfed it down in one sitting, and I love that I wasn't the least bit tempted to set it aside- something that doesn't often happen with me, especially considering how many reading slumps I've been a party to this year. Being it was an Alice Hoffman novel, that didn't come as a surprise- I've never had trouble reading her books, unless I'm trying to read them more slowly in order to 'savor' them.

This book is told in a series of shorter stories about each of the main characters, hopping from one to the other with great efficiency. Many people may not like the style, as it also switches perspectives, but for a shorter read I found it a welcome change from the usual. Mind you, I've been bemoaning a fantasy book lately that does something similar, although it's hard to compare a 200 page magical realism book with a 600 page fantasy book that hasn't shown its progression/cohesion in the 200 pages I've read so far. Yet I digress- this book has a style I enjoy, despite its quirks.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'The New York Times Book Review has noted, "Alice Hoffman writes quite wonderfully about the magic in our lives, " and now she casts her spell over a Long Island neighborhood filled with dreamers and dreams. In a dazzling series of family portraits, Hoffman evokes the world of the Samuelsons, a family torn apart by tragedy and divorce in a world of bad judgment and fierce attachments, disappointments, and devotion.With rich, pure prose Hoffman charts the always unexpected progress of Gretel Samuelson from the time Gretel is a young girl already acquainted with betrayal and grief, until she finally leaves home. Gretel's sly, funny, knowing perspective is at the heart of this collection as she navigates through loyalty and loss with the help of an unforgettable trio of women: her best friend, Jill, her romance-addicted cousin Margot, and her mother, Franny, whose spiritual journey affects them all. Told in alternating voices, these stories work wonders. Funny and lyrical, disturbing and healing, each is a lesson of survival, a reminder of the ties of blood and the power of friendship. Jane Smiley has said that "a reader is in good hands with Alice Hoffman, " and once again in expert hands, her everyday life has been transformed into magic.'

Hoffman never ceases to draw me into her small enclaves, whether they happen to be small towns in Florida or a group of rebels fighting for their rights in Masada, and Local Girls is no exception. You get to know everyone who is a mainstay of the main characters' lives, to the point where it feels like you're reading a history or someone's diary (decidedly less dry). Then the magical realism comes into effect, spawning strange events that may deter your average reader- but not me. To me, fiction is so much more fun with a dash of unrealism.

A favorite quote:

Our mother always told us that people will surely reveal what they're made of, if you only give them the chance. What's deep inside always surfaces, no matter how hidden.
                           ~Local Girls by Alice Hoffman, approximately 25%

Local Girls was an easy book for me to enjoy. Not only was it written by one of my favorite authors, it also has the magical realism elements I often crave in plain old fiction. Despite randomly changing perspectives (first person to third person to some other characters), I was enthralled with the telling of this tale. I highly recommend it if you like Alice Hoffman's work, or hold magical realism in high esteem.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent magical realism with wonky perspective changes!

Content: Ages 16+ for violence and sexual topics (and likely a swear word or two- I have the print version and couldn't helicopter highlight).

Page Count: 197 pages in my hardcover edition


  1. I love books formatted in this style! At least the ones that work. :-) I enjoy Alice Hoffman's writing style and think I will have to check this one out. It sounds good. I am glad it worked for you!

    1. Thanks, Wendy! As I mentioned, some authors can't pull this type of writing off (for me at least) but I'm sure Alice Hoffman having written this may have made me like it more than usual. Some authors just click with you. :)
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      ~Litha Nelle


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