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.