Life Among the Savages By Shirley Jackson

Picked by: 
Mary Anne

Shirley Jackson was the prolific author of novels (The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle) and hundreds of short stories. Jackson was known mainly for her writing in the horror and mystery genres.

 Life Among the Savages is something else completely! It is a funny, laugh-out-loud story of family life in Vermont in the 1950’s.  Based on Jackson’s own children and family, it chronicles the ups and downs of raising a family, and the humor to be found in living with four small children, a dog and two cats.

Jackson and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, lived in New York, but eventually moved to North Bennington, Vermont, where they raised four children in a big old house. Their children displayed their unique personalities from the beginning, and one of the funniest chapters follows Laurie, the oldest boy, as he begins kindergarten with a bit of a rocky start. Jannie develops a family of imaginary friends, who must come with her everywhere, and frequently are blamed when something accidentally breaks. Sally, the third child, struggles mightily to keep up with the older siblings. A fourth sibling, Barry, appears near the end of the book.

Jackson chronicles the whole family being sick with the flu at the same time, the car breaking down at inconvenient times, and captures the Vermont personality (nothing is done in a hurry) brilliantly in her dealings with mechanics, mailmen and store clerks. This story is hilarious and heart-warming, a must-read for anyone living with young children. It celebrates a more innocent time, and the joy found in everyday life and watching children grow.

The only mystery in this book is how Jackson ever found time to write!