Kim's Reviews > Life Among the Savages

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
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May 24, 10

really liked it
Read from May 12 to 24, 2010

I can't believe I didn't already know about this book! I saw it on an NPR list of "realistic" books about motherhood, which sounded right up my alley. I thought it was great -- probably more like 4.5 stars. The book is a semi-fictional memoir about Jackson's life raising her children. What was amazing about the book was how completely relevant it still is even though she was parenting her children over 50 years ago. Leave it to the author of "The Lottery" to get it just right. There were so many incidents in the book that made me think, "Oh my gosh, is she talking about MY kids?"

She discusses the difficulty of going shopping with kids in tow, the non-stop talking during car rides, the way to-do lists never get done, and how completely inane conversations are the ones that never seem to end. (This was one of my favorite scenes - her kids going on for hours about who would get to ride in the front seat when they got a car, and how nothing she said could derail the conversation or bring it to a satisfactory conclusion -- I think that happens every day at our house!!) But even through her descriptions of the challenges and annoyances of motherhood, it is absolutely clear how much she adores her children -- their creativity, their senses of humor, their independent spirits. And I, as a reader, came to adore them too.

It is funny and heartwarming without being at all cheesy or overly sentimental. I never felt like she was just complaining and never felt like she was glamorizing anything either -- a perfect balance. It is definitely in my top five books about motherhood/parenting. And I will finish with one quote from the book that I read about a hundred times because I thought she got it so exactly right:

"I looked at the clock with the faint unconscious hope common to all mothers that time will somehow have passed magically away and the next time you look it will be bedtime. It was ten minutes to twelve; a good eight hours to go before the nightly miracle, but a legitimate time for lunch."

"nightly miracle" - brilliant.
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