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Life Among the Savages
ISBN 0140267670 / 9780140267679 / 0-14-026767-0
Publisher Penguin Group USA
List price $15.00
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Can this be the author of such chilling tales as The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House? An ordinary housewife stuck in a big, shabby house with three marvelous, demanding children and a charming husband who takes detached interest in the chaos they generate? Yes, it's Shirley Jackson all right: the precision of her observations and prose is familiar, even if her humor is something of a surprise. Not until Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions in 1993 would another woman write with such honesty about the maddening multitude of trivial, essential chores that constitute a mother's life. But Jackson nailed it first, 40 years earlier, in her hilarious chronicle of life in a small Vermont town, where getting the kids to school on time requires the combined gifts of a drill sergeant and a lady's maid. The saga of her son's bumpy adjustment to kindergarten, frequently anthologized as Charles, is justly famous, but Jackson's account of the Department Store Trip from Hell (two kids, two toy guns, one doll carriage and doll, mayhem in revolving doors and escalators) is even funnier. Although her memoirs are as merciless as her ghost stories, you may not notice because you're laughing so hard. --Wendy Smith [via]