Local Girls by Carolina Zancan: One of the Best Books on Female Friendship (You Probably Haven’t Read)

I joined the Book of the Month club in August and selected Local Girls by Caroline Zancan. The judge who selected the book describes it:

A movie star walks into a bar and the lives of four girls — on the cusp of adulthood — will be changed forever. The relationships between the girls; the hot, humid night in a central Florida town; the vision of a mega-star downing shots — all of it vivid, and all of it just waiting for you. Open up, and enjoy.

My stars, I loved this book. Head-over-heels, absolutely enamored with it, want to reread it as soon as I can possibly justify doing so. It’s clever and heartbreaking and hopeful, all at the same time. I don’t know if I have ever read a book that captures the delicate social intricacies of female friendships so well. An easy comparison would be Mean Girls or even Easy A, but those films feel too surface, too candy-coated. Local Girls is their big sister, equal parts possibility and regret.

IMG_9106The book follows three best friends, Maggie, Nina, and Lindsay, during an unusual night at their usual dive bar, The Shamrock. Maggie narrates the action over the course of the evening, one the young women share with Hollywood hunk Sam Decker and Lila, a frenemy from their past. Starstruck but playing it cool, Maggie’s perspective shifts between the action at the bar and childhood memories  of the three young women and Lila.

Zancan deftly navigates stories in both past and present, weaving details like golden thread. This is a book that feels real, and hits every sense. It’s comfortably lived-in, the way few books manage to feel. I noticed in the author bio on the back flap that Zancan is an editor, and you can tell. Each sentence is perfectly crafted, with the appropriate balance of service to story and setting the scene, atmosphere- and tone-wise. It’s a bit of a multi-layered mystery book, and only at the end do you realize which one you cared for more.

And the women! If you like complex female characters, you will love this book. Nina steals the show as a bold personality.  Initially, I was disappointed that Maggie felt absent from her own story. She takes us through the action, both past and present, but seems to be absent at times. It wasn’t until the last few pages that I realized her voice, and how she was telling us each story, contributed to her arc. Just another way Zancan’s writing works on so many levels.

To be perfectly blunt, I am jealous of how well she finds the balance and moderates the tension in the book, allowing the full range of emotions and socialization between the characters. In their past and present storylines, she manages to find the balance between best friends and adolescent female aggression.

I sincerely hope Riverhead Books moves forward with an audio recording. With the right narrator, a woman who could temper youth and disenchanted young adulthood, this would make all kinds of “best of” audiobook lists.

Related: The Complexity of Female Friendships: An Interview with Caroline Zancan, Author of Local Girls

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