The Locals

In this panoramic novel by the author of The Privileges, a billionaire takes over a small New England town. Not everyone is pleased.

Cover image of The Locals

Mark Firth is a contractor in Howland, Massachusetts, who feels opportunity passing his family by. What kind of future can he promise his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Haley?

After being swindled by a financial advisor, he finds himself envying the wealthy weekenders whose houses sit empty all winter. Enter Philip Hadi, a billionaire hedge-fund manager from Manhattan who fled the city after 9/11. Hadi hires Mark to turn his Howland home into a year-round “secure location” from which he can safely manage other people’s money.

Inspired by Hadi, Mark looks around for a surefire investment, partnering with his troubled brother over Karen’s objections. Then Philip seizes an opportunity to transform Howland in his image—with consequences for Mark, his extended family, and the residents who only want to better their lives.

The collision of two men’s worlds—urban v. rural, wealthy v. struggling—propels this novel set in the Berkshires between the two cataclysms of the early 2000s: 9/11 and the 2008 recession.

Dee provides a glimpse into the inner workings of a small town, forming a complex political allegory and illuminating the drama that arises from economic insecurity.

Kirkus calls it “an absorbing panorama of small-town life” and the Washington Post praises it for being “attuned to the broader currents of our culture, particularly the renewed tension between competing ideals of community and self-reliance.”

Jonathan Dee

An award-winning critic as well as fiction writer, Jonathan Dee is the author of seven novels including The Locals, A Thousand Pardons, and The Privileges, which was a runner-up for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and winner of the 2011 Prix Fitzgerald and the St. Francis College Literary Prize.

The Locals was long-listed for the inaugural Aspen Institute Literary Prize for “a work of fiction with social impact.” He teaches Creative Writing at Syracuse University.


Order the book now from the Colgate Bookstore.

Meet Jonathan Dee at Colgate on Sept. 23

We're sorry that you missed Jonathan Dee's visit. If you'd like to see an archived copy of his presentation, please join the Living Writers mailing list.

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“The goal in writing characters with whom I don't personally identify is to make myself identify with them, to find the things about them that make my attempts to other them inaccurate or insincere, and hopefully to do the same for the reader as well.” That’s Jonathan Dee speaking about The Locals. To hear more, listen to this short Living Writers podcast.

Go beyond the book

  • “With this little town, this idyllic-looking version of America, Dee has constructed a world—harrowing but instructive—where no one feels content.” In this Washington Post review, Ron Charles discusses the political and social dynamics between the residents of Howland in The Locals.
  • In her review for the New York Times, Lucinda Rosenfeld expands on the variety of perspectives Dee provides in The Locals and the lessons the novel illuminates about human nature: “Together they provide a panoramic view of a local population reinforcing the idea that most people, no matter where they live or what their socioeconomic status, are selfish and semi-delusional if generally well meaning.”
  • The Locals, we come to realise, is less concerned with the spider at the centre than with the various citizens who are busy twitching on his thread.” Read more about Xan Brooks’ thoughts on the mysterious billionaire at the center of the novel and his impacts on Howland in this review for the Guardian
  • “What has for centuries been the novel’s unique source of strength—its ability to represent diverse experiences, as if from the inside out—isn’t a weakness now, exactly, but maybe it’s no longer that useful for opening up the reader’s heart to real events, because the magical faith we were accustomed to placing in the writer is gone.” Read more about Jonathan Dee’s thoughts on the future of the social novel amidst our ever-changing world in this essay for Harper’s Magazine
  • In this interview for the Alembic, conducted by Adam Kearing, Hannah Langley, and Matthew Mazzella, read about Jonathan Dee’s motivations for putting his characters through difficult circumstances: “that’s what’s thrilling, in fiction—to see characters’ mettle tested, to see their response, and to empathize with the humanity of that response whether it’s brave or not, smart or not, moral or not.”

Tell us what you think 

We're sorry you missed our Sept. 20 faculty roundtable and discussion of The Locals. You can listen to a recording of the first 15 minutes below. Guests included CJ HauserLinck Johnson, and Jeremy Wattles.  

Follow the discussion on Twitter @ColgateLW using the hashtags #ColgateLivingWriters and #TheLocals

...the distinction between humility and self-loathing was, in practice, a slippery one.

The Locals
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Living Writers is put on by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O'Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty. Support from the Upstate Institute helped make this event possible.