I’d not heard of Jonathan Dee before the day I found The Locals on the rack at Walden Pond Bookstore. It’s the story of a small Massachusetts town named Howland that’s on the brink of financial ruin when a mysterious and wealthy businessman from New York City moves to town and decides to run for the office of the town’s First Selectman, which winds up creating a hotly contested local feud between those who prefer small government and those who are happy with the involvement of this government official—and his cash—in their town’s affairs.
The novel centers around a pair of brothers, one a hard-working contractor who ends up benefitting greatly from the work provided by the town’s new leader, and the other a hard-drinking, not-so-hard-working, serially employed fellow who, through the anonymity of the internet, becomes a champion of sorts of the antigovernment strain running through the town’s politics.
One of the highlights of the novel, for me, is the opening chapter, set in New York City in the days following 9/11. Dee captures beautifully and creepily the surreal quiet of this normally bustling metropolis, and it’s a real treat to read such well-wrought narrative description as we first meet one of the principal protagonists of the novel.
In short, it’s a wonderful novel, and incredibly relevant for our current political climate, where what occurs here in Howland almost perfectly mirrors the larger national debate we find ourselves enduring at present.