This is the follow up memoir by Shirley Jackson and published in 1957. It takes places a few years after the previous book Life Among the Savages and adds I think a deeper analysis of domestic life, and more importantly a whole host of memorable children, dogs and cats to the mix. From the first book, you might already know the story “Charles” which Jackson published separately and in the The Lottery collection. From there, Laurie is now at the end of fifth grade, a little league baseball player and an absolute, but almost grown up scamp. There’s several more kids in the mix now too. There’s still “the baby” but she’s also grown up a lot, and then there’s more kids too. We come upon the family on the cusp of their moving from one house they rent into a house they plan on buying. But there’s a gap, and in the ensuing gap they need to find places for their things to be stored, and a place to live.
They move for the summer to a borrowed house miles away and become embroiled in a foreign visitors programs with Argentine and Japanese tourists. Jackson’s husband is asked to judge a beauty contest, brings constant guest home for dinner, never helps with the children. And the children, oh man the children.
Add to all of this that their cat keeps having kittens, and none of them can catch mice.
What’s amazing about all this, aside from the fact that Shirley Jackson is such a great and funny writer is how desperately domestic, familiar, and ordinary the actual circumstances are.