Life Among the Savages made me laugh until I cried. This story is written by the famous Shirley Jackson who is most well-known for her short story The Lottery. But after writing such dark stuff, she went on to write a memoir about raising her children in an old, rambling, New England farmhouse.
Shirley Jackson, along with her husband, raised 4 children, all of whom appear to have been spunky, rambunctious, hilariously funny children (although now that I think about it, isn't that the definition of most children?). The story starts when Ms. Jackson and her husband are house hunting. They have been kicked out of their apartment and they are looking at houses to raise their baby and toddler in. After months of searching, a raggle-taggle farmhouse that is lacking in pretty much any modern convenience is secured and the family moves in. From the story of Laurie heading off to school and returning a changed, swaggering man to the birth of Barry, their youngest son, when Jackson shouted at all of the nurses because of her pain medication, the stories are all captivating and enjoyable.
Each chapter (they're very long) is an essay-type story about one of her children's exploits. My absolute favorite story was of the middle daughter, Joanne, who had a vivid imaginary life, with complicated relationships and many children, whom she could also become at times. One day, they head to the department store (I do so want to step back in time to a 1940s department store) with Joanne and her imaginary family in tow. The results are disastrous (and wildly funny).
Knowing Shirley Jackson's previous writing, I am in complete awe of how she manages to write in such a different tone. The tone in these stories is one of warmth and love and humor, rather than dark bitterness. It is a truly skilled author who can switch between such different writing styles.
This is one of those books that I could not put down. I read and re-read each word, so as not to miss any little bit of Jackson's writing. Her style is so captivating. I laughed and laughed and then read aloud sections to my (sometimes) listening family members. I was torn between gobbling up the whole book in one sitting and reading about 5 pages so as to make the book last. Isn't that the best kind of book?
Some of the books I review, I end up saying, "Well, this is a book for (blank) type of person, but if you're not (blank) type of person, don't bother reading this." This is not that type of book. These witty, charming stories could be enjoyed by anybody. If you have ever spent even half an hour with a child under the age of 12, you will instantly recognize so many of the experiences and adventures. Please, please go read this, my dear readers. I guarantee that you will thank me.