The Locals (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Set in the first decade of the 21st century, The Locals, by Jonathan Dee, takes place in the small fictional community of Howland, Mass. Mark Firth is a local contractor, and a bit of a dreamer who works hard for his blue collar life. Philip Hadi is a wealthy businessman who descends on the small town to quell his fear after 9/11. 

Firth is contracted by Hadi to build a secure wall and state of the art security system around a mansion no one seems to inhabit. After the sudden death of Howland’s long time mayor, the wealthy newcomer is voted in and installed as mayor. In the insular town-- where heavy drinking and an occasional tryst are escapes from the mundane, where petty grievances become feuds, and where an anonymous blogger is ranting about politics—Hadi’s seemingly generous private contributions improve Howland’s infrastructure. 

Mark Firth, aspirational beyond his intellect and worldly experience, is enamored of Mr. Hadi for his wealth and success and seeks his counsel.  Firth clings to a few clichéd “pearls of wisdom” and risks everything to better his rank in the world.  His dull lot in life begins to unravel. 

The Locals, Dee’s eighth novel, is carefully and deliberately crafted, and illustrates the disparities between rich and poor, ambition and status quo, and small communities and urban centers. Characters are impeccably drawn, woven together by history, family, and economics. And the masterful ending leaves us realizing how ethereal the way we want to live really is. 

— Sarah Bagby


"Summons up a small American town at precisely the right moment in our history . . . a bold, vital, and view-expanding novel."--George Saunders

A rural working-class New England town elects as its mayor a New York hedge fund millionaire in this inspired novel for our times--fiction in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan.


Mark Firth is a contractor and home restorer in Howland, Massachusetts, who feels opportunity passing his family by. After being swindled by a financial advisor, what future can Mark promise his wife, Karen, and their young daughter, Haley? He finds himself envying the wealthy weekenders in his community whose houses sit empty all winter.

Philip Hadi used to be one of these people. But in the nervous days after 9/11 he flees New York and hires Mark to turn his Howland home into a year-round "secure location" from which he can manage billions of dollars of other people's money. The collision of these two men's very different worlds--rural vs. urban, middle class vs. wealthy--is the engine of Jonathan Dee's powerful new novel.

Inspired by Hadi, Mark looks around for a surefire investment: the mid-decade housing boom. Over Karen's objections, and teaming up with his troubled brother, Gerry, Mark starts buying up local property with cheap debt. Then the town's first selectman dies suddenly, and Hadi volunteers for office. He soon begins subtly transforming Howland in his image--with unexpected results for Mark and his extended family.

Here are the dramas of twenty-first-century America--rising inequality, working class decline, a new authoritarianism--played out in the classic setting of some of our greatest novels: the small town. The Locals is that rare work of fiction capable of capturing a fraught American moment in real time.

Praise for The Locals

"After 9/11, New York hedge fund billionaire Philip Hadi retreats to his summer home in the Berkshires. In thrall to his new town, he runs for office to keep it sleepy, sweet and free from tax hikes. Is he benevolent, arrogant or both? No one gets off the moral hook in this propulsive, brilliantly observed study."--People (Book of the Week)

"Thoughtful . . . Jonathan Dee's] prescient sensitivity has never been more unnerving. . . . Amid the heat of today's vicious political climate, The Locals is a smoke alarm. Listen up."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

About the Author

Jonathan Dee is the author of six previous novels, most recently A Thousand Pardons. His novel The Privileges was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and winner of the 2011 Prix Fitzgerald and the St. Francis College Literary Prize. A former contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a senior editor of The Paris Review, and a National Magazine Award-nominated literary critic for Harper's, he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He lives in Syracuse, New York.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780812993226
ISBN-10: 0812993225
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: August 8th, 2017
Pages: 400
Language: English