Monday, May 24, 2021

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson


Reviewed by Christy

            Shirley Jackson is known for her quiet horror, specifically the novel The Haunting of Hill House and the you-probably-read-it-in-high-school short story The Lottery. While her horror writing is excellent, she also wrote about her family life and the chaos that is raising four children. I listened to her semi-autobiographical collection of short stories Life Among the Savages on audio from READS. It is in one word: charming.

            Having read a couple of Jackson’s domestic short stories, I expected to enjoy Life Among the Savages. What I didn’t expect was to laugh out loud several times, including when I read Jackson’s Wikipedia entry where she referred to this book as a “disrespectful memoir” of her children. I particularly enjoyed listening to their young son Laurie relay the horrible misdeeds of his classmate Charlie. Shirley and her husband are wrapped up in the many stories of Charlie’s anarchy, and Shirley is anxious to meet Charlie’s mother at the next PTA meeting to see JUST what kind of woman raises a wild child like that. Unfortunately, Shirley discovers that although those misdeeds certainly happened, there is no child named Charlie in her son’s class…

            Lesa Lockford narrates the audio book and does a wonderful job. She gives each child a distinct voice that is cute but not overly exaggerated. I think her delivery made the book even more enjoyable than simply reading it would have. But as always, Jackson’s prose is the real star. Whether writing about horrors or hand-me-downs, she is able to make the action or a character’s feelings vividly jump off the page. If you’re a mood reader like me, and need to break up heavier works with something light, I highly recommend these wholesome and delightful stories.

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