Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

I’ve always had this quirky obsession with stories about families over the years.

The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Baby-Sitters Club.

The Fast and the Furious.

I would even include Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark.

I’m talking about Shirley Jackson’s “Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings.” I found myself commiserating with her stories about her family and the goofy stuff they’ve had to suffer through together.

Even something as silly as who left the hose out.

I got to thinking why I gravitate towards stories about fictional families and not-so-fictional ones.

Is there a universal truth about being a part of a family? Not that I don’t enjoy stories about orphans – though there is always a glut of those. But I think it’s because everyone has a story to tell.

I didn’t have the idyllic family life like Ms. Jackson and her husband gave to their kids. I won’t comment on the destruction of their marriage, because that’s not what the book is about.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Leo Tolstoy

I grew up in a military family. There were long stretches where Dad was over there. Wherever over there happened to be. He couldn’t be there for my birth; he was on the ice in Antartica.

What hits me like a ton of brick about this collection is that all families are the same. No matter what your station. You have the annoying older brother, girly girl kid sister, the dog who slobbers on your things, and you happen to also live in a creaky old house that moans and creaks during windy days.

I enjoyed this collection immensely. It gives you a peek into the mind of a brilliant writer. It shows her writing process in bits and pieces and how the bits and pieces of a mundane family life influenced the work of hers that we know and love.

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