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.
While it’s not a sequel to The Privileges, it could be that book’s counterpart, or consequence. It’s the other side of the late-capitalist equation that gave the Moreys more and more, and it too suggests a vision of how the world ends … The story of a man of few charms but great net worth who, citing Adam Smith as he goes, reaches out with his invisible hand and pussy-grabs a piece of the Berkshires, The Locals has an air of satire, but there’s nothing in here that’s implausible. It’s more like a tragedy about people who allow themselves to be made ridiculous. At times, we might be reading a magazine article about the rural death spiral that birthed the Trump voter. They’re deplorable, these locals, but are they culpable? … Dee has written a book against sentimentality, and while brilliant it is unforgiving.