Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Jacksons #2

Raising Demons

Rate this book
Life Among the Savages charmed thousands with its insightful wit and contrasting warmth. In this sequel, Shirley Jackson continues her affectionate, hilarious, sophisticated tale of dubious parental equilibrium in the face of four children, assorted dogs and cats, and the uncounted heaps of small intrusive possessions which pile up in corners everywhere.

310 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1957

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Shirley Jackson

302 books8,442 followers
Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown America. In her critical biography of Shirley Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery" was published in the June 28, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received." Hundreds of letters poured in that were characterized by, as Jackson put it, "bewilderment, speculation and old-fashioned abuse."

Jackson's husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, wrote in his preface to a posthumous anthology of her work that "she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements. She believed that her books would speak for her clearly enough over the years." Hyman insisted the darker aspects of Jackson's works were not, as some critics claimed, the product of "personal, even neurotic, fantasies", but that Jackson intended, as "a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb", to mirror humanity's Cold War-era fears. Jackson may even have taken pleasure in the subversive impact of her work, as revealed by Hyman's statement that she "was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned The Lottery', and she felt that they at least understood the story".

In 1965, Jackson died of heart failure in her sleep, at her home in North Bennington Vermont, at the age of 48.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
957 (40%)
4 stars
927 (38%)
3 stars
419 (17%)
2 stars
57 (2%)
1 star
20 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 287 reviews
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books971 followers
April 21, 2020
Raising Demons is a seamless sequel to Life Among the Savages and just as good. Maybe better. The story continues shortly after the other left off, with various anecdotes about raising Laurie, Sally, Jannie and Barry.

Shirley's observant eye for humor in everyday life shines brilliantly, with simple prose that feels homey and familiar. You love her, her children and all the characters involved. Best of all, she isn't afraid to poke fun at herself. The bit about the birthday card is a knee-slapping good time. When the book ends, you want to cry because these people have become so important in your life that you can't imagine not hearing about the next story, the next hilarious misadventure.

Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons are so distinctly different from Jackson's most famous works (Hill House, Castle, The Lottery) that it's sad to imagine what vast bibliography she could have written had she not been taken from the world so soon. Nevertheless, she accomplished more than most writers could dream for with a handful of brilliant novels, short stories and memoirs.

The new audio productions for these memoirs are particularly fabulous. Hard to imagine, but for a long time the majority of Shirley's works were out-of-print and hard to find. Thankfully, a recent resurgence of interest manged to bring everything back. Finally there's recognition that her non-Hill House works are superb as well. Culture may change, but the pain, joy, cruelty, humor and terror she wrote about remains timeless.
Profile Image for emma.
1,871 reviews54.8k followers
December 26, 2021
A fun fact about me is that, even though I was born in 1997, and even though I did not and have not yet, to date, live in Vermont or in New York City, and even though my last name is not Jackson, I am, in my heart and soul, a member of Shirley Jackson's family.

This is through a little loophole called "I read Shirley Jackson's memoirs about raising her children in semi-rural Vermont and developed such an unhealthy obsession with them that I'm about one step away from indulging in full-blown delusion that they were my actual life, and not books I had picked up."

This one didn't have the same magic as Life Among the Savages had for me. I picked that one up knowing nothing about it beyond the fact that I newly considered Jackson an auto-buy author, following the success of debuting my genius project with her, and I was disappointed to learn that not only was it NOT the spooky mystery I expected, but it was about my least favorite subject:


But Life Among the Savages made me laugh out loud, and to date it's the only full-length Jackson work I've five starred.

This shows the same cast of characters a little more grown up, and the stories don't have the same shine to them. But that's okay. It still made me almost cry to finish it.

Bottom line: I wish I'd never read this! Then it wouldn't be over.

This is both a compliment and an insult.


this is why i never read series. standalones don't make you this sad to finish

review to come / 3.5

currently-reading updates

shirley jackson i love you

clear ur shit prompt 10: a book with an animal
follow my progress here
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 3 books3,379 followers
July 9, 2015
A few years ago my sister broke her jaw. (She fell off a ladder; don't ask.) Among many other things, this resulted in one of my all-time favorite photos of the two of us—this is what I texted my folks at 4am to let them know she was okay.


So good, right? Anyway, I unearthed this book from the very bottom of a very large stack as a possible candidate to read to her while she was recovering from surgery. And it was such such such a perfect choice! With the possible exception of The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan , this may well be the funniest book ever written. Plus it's so clever, so silly, so warm and sweet. Just totally extraordinary.

It's a book of stunning minutia, where the seemingly simplest things—a Little League game, getting a new dog, making a family dinner, finding a missing sneaker—really just bubble with life and love and joy and fun. Shirley Jackson has just got an impeccable ear for speech and an unsurpassable sense of story, rendering with stunning deftness detailed conversations with her children (in all their non-sequiturian glory) and the many hilarious episodes in her family's day-to-day small-town life. It is absolutely mind-boggling to think that this kind, sweet, gentle, sarcastic woman is the same person from whose brain sprung "The Lottery" and other such disturbing pieces.

Here's the cast. Shirley herself, a very poised, often self-deprecating but extremely perceptive wife and mother of four. Her husband, an English professor at a nearby women's college, coin collector, and extremely sarcastic wit, who is regularly bewildered by his entire family. Then the kids: Laurie, about thirteen, the protective older brother who loves baseball and building stuff and is always being fined by his dad for pronouncing things to be 'real cool' or 'flipped'; Jannie, maybe ten, in her mind a future beauty queen (or princess, hopefully), who is quite smart and often funny; Sally, about five, who speaks in the most delicious "odd jangling manner", which usually means repeating the central theme of each sentence at its end, as in, "Laurie is on his bike, and Jannie has been eaten by bears, eaten"; and finally Barry, two, whose constant companion is a blue teddy bear named Dikidiki.

And look, I should mention that this is not the kind of book I would ever think to read. I mean, it's a memoir by a fifties housewife about life with her family in a small town in Vermont. I hate the perceived preciousness of small-town life. I hate women who think their little babies' foibles are worth transcribing in agonizing detail. And I really hate – or am at least made distinctly uncomfortable by – fifties housewives who simper and obsique, describe themselves as 'helpless little women', and defer to their husbands on everything. Truth be told, I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to pick this up in the first place, given the above. But honestly? None of that matters. Shirley Jackson is just brilliant, in every way, and I don't care what she's writing about – it's just so much fun to listen to and be a part of. I did wind up deciding to read a few little selections to my sister – just a paragraph or two here or there – but each time I started, she didn't let me stop for twenty or thirty pages! I'm avoiding transcribing passages here for the same reason: if I started, I'd have to type up the whole damn book. Shirley Jackson is just superb.
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
418 reviews364 followers
April 3, 2021
Raising Demons, is Shirley Jackson's sequel to Life Among the Savages, a memoir of her life as a mother to four children and wife to a languid, academic husband. This all happens in rural Vermont back in the 1950s. This one starts with the family moving to a larger house, much closer to the school, in a nicer part of town. The decision making process for this to occur was something to behold. What started as an idea, ended up being a case of Chinese Whispers, with various community members pushing it over the line. Like much of this family’s life they were not in control.
There’s some hilarious stuff about the hopeless removalist, the fridge fiasco, the pets, little league baseball, the husband’s frugality and Jackson’s dissatisfaction of being an Academic’s wife. The scenes involving the female students of her husband are an absolute highlight.
A classic slice of Jackson “My husband’s contention that I could only count up to five when we were married and have not learned anything since- is unjustified and easily disproven anytime I want to go to so much trouble.." Hahahaha.
Like the first book, the best bits involve her comically cruel descriptions of her husband. To be sure, he does deserve this treatment – in some ways though it would be interesting to hear his side of the story. But he does come across as lazy, selfish and totally oblivious to the surrounding mayhem.
Jackson certainly has an eye for the absurd. This so happens to be one of my favourite forms of humour in everyday life. l believe Jackson would have been very funny in real life, but not in any “I’m trying to be hilarious" type of way.
Only issues I had with this one are, it’s pretty much the same as the first book and there seem to be many more blocks of rapid fire sentences, all well and good as it’s very much in context with what the author was trying to achieve – but I did find several of these passages a bit tiresome at times.
But having said that I would give this one the same score as the first book.
4 Stars
Profile Image for Anne .
455 reviews376 followers
March 19, 2021
Raising Demons is the sequel to Shirley Jackson's first humorous chronicle of family life, Life Among the Savages. This book is similar though better because Jackson shows more of herself, specifically her feelings about her husband, his female college students and the faculty wives at his husband’s college. Jackson expresses her feelings through wit, sarcasm and a bit of snark. The quotes below show this side of Jackson. I chose them because they are the only element which is different from her first "memoir." Jackson also shows her feelings at other times, as in one hilarious scenario when a real estate agent comes over to assess the value of their house. Reading this book would be worthwhile just to read the agent's comment about their study and Jackson's repost.

When Jackson is writing about the humorous things her children do and say the scenes are funny, poignant and sweet. Anything that involves family life, being a wife and mother is in this book from selling and buying homes, moving, pets, appliance mishaps, baseball games, missing children, her husband receiving a letter from a past girlfriend, etc.. Instead of telling you more I'll let Jackson speak for herself.

“I was not bitter about being a faculty wife. Very much. Although it did occur to me once or twice that young men who were apt to go on and become college teachers ought to be required to wear some kind of identifying badge for the protection of innocent young girls who might in that case go on to be the contented wives of furniture repair men or disc jockeys or car salesman...The way it is now any girl can find herself hardening slowly into a faculty wife when all she actually thought she was doing was just getting married.”


“I think it is unkind of fate to send me back to college the hard way… The three big thorns in the faculty wife’s ointment are her husband, her husband’s colleagues, and her husband’s students. Naturally a husband presents enormous irritations no matter what he is doing and I think it is unreasonable to think of a teaching husband as more faulty than, say, a plumbing husband. But there is no question that the ego of a teaching husband is going to be more vividly developed particularly if he teaches in a girls' college.... When we go to a party ...we are greeted by laughing students .. surrounding him saying... 'you did wear the orange tie after all' and 'class was just simply super this morning'... I could figure while standing alone in the hall moodily looking for a place to put my coat .. that it was going to be proportionately more difficult, once home, to persuade my husband to put up the new shelves in the kitchen. He was going to lie back in his chair flaunting the orange tie and tell me to get a boy for things like that.“

Jackson and a student at a party:

S: Did you ever figure you’d end up like this? (She waved her hand vaguely at the student living room).

J: Certainly. My only desire was to be a faculty wife. I used to sit at my casement window half embroidering, half dreaming and long for Professor Right.

S: I suppose that you are better off than you would have been.

J: I was a penniless governess in a big house…I was ready to take anything that moved.

S: And, of course, you do make a nice home for your husband, someplace to come back to..

J: My spinning lacks finesse but I yield to no one on my stone-ground meal.

Jackson on cooking for her family:

"I could not make it the way the recipe said to, however, because, inevitably, it contained ingredients which were distasteful to my family. I decided to leave out the onion because Sally would not eat anything so highly flavored as onions. I could not mix the ground round steak with rice because Laurie loathes rice. My husband could not bear tomatoes in any form, Jannie would not touch cabbage and no one in the family except me cared for sour cream. When I had finished eliminating from the casserole what I had was a hamburger studded with cashew nuts, which was undeniably a novelty, although I am afraid that on the whole my casserole was not a success. Everyone carefully removed the cashew nuts and set them aside, and Laurie asked irritably if we always had to have hamburger for dinner.”

"By the end of the first semester what I wanted to do most was invite a few of my husband's students over for tea and drop them down the well."

If these quotes do not make you laugh then this book is not for you. If you did laugh I suggest picking up this book when you need something light and funny to read.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books818 followers
June 13, 2020

As I’m a baseball fan, I guess it’s not surprising the only section I remembered from my first read was the story about the town’s Little League. It’s a perfect showing and not telling about the difference between the parents’ competitiveness with one other versus the boys’ desire to play baseball.

I may not have noticed in my first read how, if Jackson mostly ignores her husband as an unseen presence around the house in Life Among the Savages, she’s skewering him here: his double-standards about money; his interest in young women; his expectation that she will do everything, including keeping the kids and pets away from him while he reads and writes in his study—and then drive him between work and home, even for lunchtime. (She’s the breadwinner, Stanley!) There’s a reason he didn’t want to get a driver’s license.

Most of the humor in this sequel arises from the way Jackson relays the differing personalities of her four children, much of it through dialogue. A small section about Shirley and her older daughter quizzing each other on who said what in Little Women adds another dimension to Jackson. Is it any wonder I love this woman so much?

The ending, a Christmas Eve scene, is sweet, though not sentimental, and when the youngest child, still a toddler, looks confusedly at his mother when a story about her as a little girl is told, I was reminded he was only fourteen when she died.


Addendum, June 13, 2020: In these books Jackson never mentions the times she's writing, or trying to write. She writes as if she doesn't. When, finally, all the children attend school for at least a half-day, she's making lunch, cleaning, running errands, dealing with the pets, during that brief period of daily time. Once, she tries to do a crossword puzzle before being interrupted by her husband. When the kids are in bed, she reads mysteries. The act of writing is invisible.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,454 reviews475 followers
May 28, 2021
27 May 2021

Earlier today I read a bit of an opinion on President Biden's proposed infrastructure plan. He was mocking the whole thing because was too much money (in his opinion) was intended to provide home health care to elderly people, which wasn't even infrastructure. Infrastructure, he said authoritatively, is physical structures: roads, bridges, cable, sewers, etc.

He is blind to the infrastructure he has profited from for his entire life because it isn't physical structures: it is people. Mostly women, but not exclusively. Women, looking after the children, doing the housework, doing the shopping and cooking, looking after the elderly and the ill.

I can't get it out of my mind as I sit re-reading this book. Because Shirley Jackson didn't get a room of her own, although her husband had a study at home in addition to his office on campus. She supported the family on her earnings from sales to the glossy magazines of the day, and she did it in the kitchen around all the chores of raising the children, cooking for the family, all the thousand details and distractions of house work. This book is the bread and mayonnaise (the horror). At least she's appreciated now: she sure wasn't then.


Jackson, writing about her four kids, husband, and small Vermont town, is hilarious. Although nothing in this book can top the disappearing pillow sequence in Life Among the Savages.
Profile Image for Craig.
5,143 reviews122 followers
March 1, 2022
Raising Demons is a follow-up to Life Among the Savages, Jackson's humorous reminiscences of domestic life in the 1950's. Best known, of course, for her creepy novels and stories, Jackson found the funniest take possible for all manner of mundane events, including holidays and parties and moving into a new house and acquiring new pets and parents' competitiveness at Little League games and the trials and tribulations of traveling and shopping with four children and on and on. I had a very similar situation as one she describes with a very old refrigerator, and so that was my favorite description. I did think her tone felt just a little sharper, perhaps a touch more sarcastic, than in the previous book, particularly when mentioning her husband. She almost never mentions her own activities at all, outside of being a constant mother and protector, other than how going to the dentist, for example, affects the family. She does find a funny side of every situation and it's an uproarious book, but now also serves as a very poignant look back at what became the idealized life of the Eisenhower era. She was one of the greatest American writers of the last century, no matter what her subject.
Profile Image for Hannah Garden.
996 reviews169 followers
February 11, 2011
Oh my gosh, there's no better expression for this book than just total freaken absolute BUNDLE OF JOY. This book is just a bundle of damn joy, man. I will certainly read its companion, Life Among the Savages. "Raising Demons" is, in fact, Shirley Jackson's title for a book about raising her children. And if you know anything about Shirley Jackson, you might wonder what in heaven's name is in store for you here. Because she can be creepy as hell. Which I love, I mean that's what we go to Shirley Jackson for, I'm not saying I wouldn't have been pleased if it HAD been creepy. But it's not, it's so funny, and so sweet, and so helpless and so stiff-upper. I think Barry's lines especially had me laughing out loud on the train, and her portrayal of her husband is a goddamn delight. Thanks Oriana!
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,301 reviews450 followers
June 24, 2020
I enjoyed this every bit as much as Life Among the Savages. The section on the first Little League games in town was priceless, and 2nd grader Sally is my spirit animal. When the family is considering getting another cat for their mouse problem, she wonders if it wouldn't just be easier to make pets of the mice. In my little bit of research, it seems that all these children are still alive today, however, life wasn't quite as rosy and jolly as Jackson portrays it in these books. No matter, though. Both books were a lot of fun to read and gave me a lot of laughs.

I can't believe Hollywood hasn't made a TV series out of this.
Profile Image for Martin.
327 reviews143 followers
May 8, 2019
You can choose friends, but you GET family.

Shirley Jackson relates her adventures in bringing up her children. This story continues directly from her "Life among the Savages".

On talking with foreigners
I strongly suppressed a basic superstition which came unbidden to my mind (if you talk loud enough you can make them understand) and said, very softly, “And how long have you been here, Mr. Lopez?”
He looked surprised, and thought. “Ten minute?” he said at last, tentatively.
“No, no. How long have you been in this country?”
Again he thought. “Juan,” he said hesitantly. “Juan Lopez.”
I smiled largely, and nodded. “And do you like it?” I asked.
“Oh,” he said, pondering. “Very much,” he said finally, and we both smiled, and nodded, and repeated “very much,” and smiled again.
“This is fine country,” Mr. Yashamoto said. “Very eatable food in this country.”

The end of the prison time
I realized acutely how strange it was going to be now during the long empty mornings. I asked my husband if he was aware of the fact that for eleven years there had always been one youngest child around the house all the time and he said he was only too aware of it and eleven years was longer than they gave you for anything except barratry and mayhem.

Common food
The only actual staples in the house were milk and peanut butter. These were the lowest common denominator in the kitchen; nothing else was common to all six, and yet everyone complained constantly about the food. My husband said that it cost too much, Laurie said that there was not enough variety, Jannie said that we did not have mashed potatoes half often enough, Sally just complained that she had to eat it, and Barry thought that there were not enough eggs. I myself thought that making dinner and cleaning up afterward every night was too great an effort to make if all I was going to get was complaints, and anyone who wanted to live on milk and peanut butter from now on was welcome to as far as I was concerned.

A collection of short tales about Shirley Jackson's family.


Profile Image for Annie.
95 reviews
March 27, 2020
Just like Life Among the Savages, I did not want this to ever end. I laughed out loud so many times and I now feel like Shirley is an old friend - the absolutely hilarious, witty, clever kind that is so rare to find.
Profile Image for ALLEN.
553 reviews121 followers
August 19, 2018
Life in the Eisenhower Era, particularly in small towns, is usually thought of as placid if not downright dull. But not at the pen of the amazing Shirley Jackson, who concluded her mom-with-kids comic short stories that began in book form with the best-selling Life Among the Savages (1953) with this Raising Demons (1957). Only a mystery writer as gifted as Jackson could deal in the elements of horror and make them so funny -- the mania for building clothespin dolls with a friend as a child -- the little old relative "a thousand years old" who lives in an antique cottage on a rose-covered hill, attended by a bevy of snow-white cats -- the children's dubious brushes with the local educational system -- the local mothers' growing obsession over the progress of the town's Little League season, which affected everyone except, thank heaven, the players themselves.

My advice is that the curious start their reading with the predecessor volume (LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES) and then pick up RAISING DEMONS if the mood strikes. Some years ago, BOMC put these two comic works under one cover; barring that you'll have to read the books individually. For me it was a labor of love, and I've laughed through multiple readings of each.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 60 books764 followers
November 8, 2022
Re-read 11/6/22: I was desperate to fall asleep after three hours of lying awake staring at the ceiling, and I don't know why I picked this as my anesthetic of choice, but it soothed my brain. I don't know how I could have overlooked the final section, a description of one of their Christmases that is simply beautiful, but I do know that, having now read most of Shirley Jackson's most recent biography, I dislike her husband more because this story reads now as a cry for help. (He was a philanderer who made no secret of his affairs and kept a tight hold on the purse strings, even more than was typical of the 1950s.) Anyway, it continues to be enjoyable.

Re-read 3/26/17: Upped the rating to four stars, because I liked it better this time around, and because for some reason I was thinking of it in terms of how much her children must appreciate having these memories told so wonderfully. Even the stories where they come off sounding awful.

7/13/13: Much as I enjoyed this, I didn't like it as much as Life Among the Savages, probably because as Jackson's kids got older, it was increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that they're either brats or Jackson isn't a very good parent. Still, there are some excellent moments here, particularly her description of the new house they buy, her oldest son Laurie's one year in Little League, and the wild antics of their pets. Jackson is still brilliant and funny, and the book is well worth picking up.
Profile Image for Lee Anne.
829 reviews74 followers
May 29, 2009
There's a scene in season one of "Mad Men" in which little Sally Draper is playing spaceman by wearing a dry cleaning bag over her head and entire body. When mom Betty sees her, she's angry...because "if my clothes from that dry cleaning bag are on the floor of my closet, you're going to be a very sorry young lady." This book is thrilling to read for its depiction of mid-century parenting, things you can actually get arrested for today. Baby Barry's car seat is in the front, while the other three children ride in the back, sans seat belts. Three year old Sally wanders to a neighbor's house to get breakfast when mom sleeps in and doesn't cook, then wanders back later. It makes one's head spin.

Anyway, if you only know Shirley Jackson from her required reading short story classic "The Lottery," or The Haunting of Hill House, this is the second of her two memoirs of the joys and miseries of wifedom and motherhood. All the Bombeckian (pre-Bombeck, I might add) touchstones are here: moving, clutter, Little League, appliances, husband's old girlfriends coming to town, pets, money. It's sweet, wistful, often very funny, and out of print.
Profile Image for tee.
239 reviews244 followers
February 22, 2010
This is a review of both Life Among The Savages and Raising Demons, as I read a volume that had both in it.

Usually I read to escape from life and the problem I had with this book is that I was reading about housework and it's mundanity, raising children and it's frustrations - and then I'd put the book down to do exactly that in-real-life. I feel all chored out and I haven't even done any housework today. I do use the word 'frustrations' lightly. Jackson hardly even implied that raising four children, looking after a house, husband and pets - as frustrating. She seemed to find it great fun and not tedious at all. Surely there has to be 'The Secret Diaries of Shirley Jackson' somewhere and they'd be more Plath than positivity.

I think I may have been more interested in her stories if I had read her other work. It's a pity that her world seemed to consist of children and housework and we didn't get to see, well, any of her. Though, they would have been a riot to read if I actually knew her personally, the folk in her small town must've been thrilled to get their hands on this. Well the voyeuristic, nosy ones at least.

I found Shirley Jackson to be a very witty writer, her sentences bounce from one to the next, she's really easy to read. Sometimes it got really tedious though. Like a book compiled simply of lists - have you ever read something like that? List after list. Now, I like lists, but I can hardly sit down and read a book composed of them- they'd have to be extremely thrilling, riveting lists. And riveting, Jackson's life is not. I don't think she left the house bar to run errands in all 810 pages. Well, there was the four or five days in NYC which was really, just more of the same.

She had a rather irritating habit of describing the absolute tedious, mundanities of her daily life. The first time it was funny; I related. Picking up the socks, then picking up the towel, putting the towel in the hamper, and the socks in the hamper, then picking up the bathmat and then putting the bathmat over the edge of the bath - ah, yes, I know what that is like. But I found my eyes glazing over when she wrote such things one too many times. But then I'm someone who prefers to read about drug addiction and eating disorders than happy family life.

Here's an excerpt taken from "Life Among the Savages" that explains precisely what I mean; funny on first reading, exhausting on the fifth and torturous by the twentieth time that this formula is used.

My husband caught the grippe first, on a Friday, and snarled and shivered and complained until I prevailed upon him to go to bed. By Friday night both Laurie and Sally were feverish, and on Saturday Jannie and I began to cough and sniffle. In our family we take ill in different manners; my husband is extremely annoyed at the whole procedure and is convnced that his being sick is somebody's fault, Laurie tends to become a little light-headed and strew handkerchiefs around his room, Jannie coughs and coughs and coughs, Sally turns bright red, and I suffer in stoical silence, so long as everyone knows clearly that I am sick. We are each of us privately convinced that our own ailment is far more severe than anyone else's. At any rate, on Saturday night I put all the children into their beds, gave each of them half an aspirin and the usual fruit juice, covered them warmly, and then settled my husband down for the night with his tumbler of water and his cigarettes and matches and ashtray; he had decided to sleep in the guest room because it was warmer. At about ten o'clock I checked to see that all the children were covered and asleep and that Toby was in his place on the bottom half of the double-decker. I then took two sleeping pills and went to sleep in my own bed in my own room. Because my husband was in the guest room I slept on his side of the bed, next to the bed-table. I put my cigarettes and matches on the end table next to the ashtray, along with a small glass of brandy, which I find more efficacious than cough medicine."

(!!) pages later, she is still caught up in listing the procedures of them being sick in (I imagine) a monotone drivel. She describes how Sally went into their bed, she went into the spare bed, her husband joined her, then left, the dog took his place, Jannie ended up with the whiskey beside her, Laurie slept in the baby's cot - so on and so forth, and suddenly it wasn't funny anymore. And I was scared, because I was only 136 pages into the book.

I must admit though, her children seem extraordinarily funny and bright. If I were to write memoirs of the activities that happens in my daily life - they'd pale in comparison. My son merely drives his matchbox cars around/demands to eat sugar/watches Ben10. My daughter is only one, so she spends a lot of time screeching and drooling. That is it. I think my son has said one witty thing in his four years of existence and it involved asking what his toenails were made out of. If my children were Shirley Jackson's kids, I probably would have gathered three or four anecdotes in the time I've spent writing this review.

All in all, a light, easy read - I would recommend "Life Among the Savages" over "Raising Demons", but I'd probably recommend reading it in between reading a more exciting book. And really, I don't think it'd be of interest to anyone but housewives with children. Even then, as I've said, it's hardly a book you can escape from your life to. So maybe don't read it. I think I read somewhere that certain parts of her novels were printed in Women's Weekly's and such, which is where I think they belong. Reading a column of her life each week - well I'd look forward to it. In book-form, I just felt a little overwhelmed and daunted. I think that may have more to do with me and my aversion to housework and the tedium of family life, than Shirley Jackson though. My book reviews have all been taking a negative dive lately, so it could very well be my state-of-mind, rather than the books themselves. See, I also agree whole-heartedly with Oriana's review as well - read that for a review which I whole-heartedly agree with; Oriana rates it five stars and gives it a glowing review - which I would too, probably, if I weren't such an utter, depressive arsehole.

I must say, I would have loved to have known her in real life. She seems like such a large character of a woman, sharp and hilarious. It sounds like she always had a delicious batch of cookies or puddings on the ready. And I do have a thing for how women in the 50's chain smoked with such zest (she mentions lighting a cigarette in the taxi on the way to the hospital .. pregnant, in labour!) Her kids could teach mine a thing or two too.

(Upon completion of this review, my son came over and coughed up a chunk of his sandwich onto my leg, see? Not something I want to extend into a 900 tome of a booK, props to Jackson for having more creative, intelligent offspring).
Profile Image for Holly.
1,012 reviews228 followers
March 10, 2017
I remember trying to read Jackson's Life Among the Savages and this book in my 20s and then putting them aside unfinished, because I didn't perceive any EDGE. I've now returned to the two books, and discovered a little bit of edge - it's just discernible but it's there. I'm fascinated that this is the same writer who composed The Lottery and Haunting at Hill House.

It seems as if Jackson revealed more about her marriage in this book, or simply shared more feelings. This is not the story of a companionate marriage - this a 1950s American marriage and it's not egalitarian at all. Though some could probably read the entire book as lighthearted and quaint, I saw some seething anger and resentment peeking out under the patina of sweetness and incorrigible-yet-charming children. For example, Jackson's feelings about her husband's role in judging the Vermont beauty pageant, or his semi-hostile responses to her during his IRS tax audit, and their money problems, and his reliance on her to raise the children and cook his meals - I sensed this was a female artist trying to describe painful experiences that nobody thought to be problematic in the 1950s. I still don't know anything about Jackson's actual life beyond these two books - what was really going on and who was she? So I am now eager to read Ruth Franklin's acclaimed biography.
Profile Image for Troy Blackford.
Author 24 books2,500 followers
December 28, 2015
I could not be-LIEVE how funny this was. This was an incredible, insightful, highly personal family memoir. I didn't realize that I should have read 'Life Among the Savages' first, as it is chronologically antecedent. But that failure didn't diminish my enjoyment. I knew Shirley Jackson was one of the most gifted writers in the horror genre, establishing much of the modern tone and possessing one of the most distinctive, poetic, and lyrical voices the genre has ever seen. But I am *flabbergasted* at how hilarious and poignant and evocative this set of essays about her family life is. It doesn't seem fair, how good she is at these wildly different things. But she is. So highly recommended.
Profile Image for Rita.
5 reviews9 followers
October 6, 2021
Shirley Jackson died eight years after publishing Raising Demons, already agoraphobic, often drunk and (I imagine) very lonely. She has something to hide. Something, hazy, sloppy and sickly in her writing, a sleight of hand, like Jeanne Dielman reeling off chores, exhausted and quietly hysterical. I don't believe half of the family charade she describes here but when her son calls her "tippy", or when a panic comes over her one afternoon, driving away from her big house - you can feel the dread cut right in.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 35 books121 followers
March 19, 2016
Unlike all the other SJ books I've been reading these past few months, I don't know that I'd ever before read this in its entirety. Being the sequel to Life Among the Savages, Raising Demons suffers a bit from a sense of been there done that; most of the best of her family stories are in the previous book, and with two of Jackson's four kids being much older here, the material just doesn't have those same sparks (she was a master at capturing the peculiar rhythms and habits of young children in particular). There's also a palpable sense of overwhelm that occasionally peeks through the generally light tone, highlighting the frustration that Jackson must have felt trying to keep her writing career going while tending to her boisterous, demanding family—this adds a tension, but one that I feel she tried to gloss over more than use to her advantage, storytelling-wise. The book certainly has its moments, including a very funny tale of a chaotic family trip to New York, and especially the closing piece, where the Jackson-Hymans unpack the Christmas decorations together, preparing for the holiday and the long winter ahead. In these and other stories Jackson captures domestic life with great humor, charm, and perception.
Profile Image for Diana Tilson.
92 reviews
February 24, 2009
These books are over too soon. I wish Shirley Jackson had written more of them, and that her children had written a follow-up compendium so that readers would know what they are doing now...

This was the second of these books (My Life Among the Savages was the first) but I actually found this one even more satisfying. I couldn't read it on the train because it made me laugh out loud too often, so I had to read it in the privacy of my home where I could give myself over fully to giggling.

These are out of print now, but I wish someone would reissue them.
Profile Image for Danelle.
673 reviews14 followers
February 16, 2016
Shirley Jackson is my new hero and I'm declaring 2016 my year of her. In Raising Demons, the sequel to Life Among the Savages, Jackson continues her narrative on motherhood, life in a small Vermont town, and raising children (the 'savages' from the previous book who have now all grown to be 'demons', her four children: Laurie, Jannie, Sally, and Barry). Jackson describes their move to a new home, small crises with kitchen appliances, her eldest son's foray into Little League, her daughter's aptitude for black magic, and even their menagerie of cats, kittens, dog, and puppy with a fondness and wit that keeps it from becoming overwhelmingly sentimental. Her writing is equal parts elegant and everyday, completely relatable and funny.

I absolutely loved this and as I read, began to feel that being a mom would perhaps be enhanced if we did it the way Shirley Jackson did. I'm not sure if it was more of the era in which she parented or the manner in which she parented, but surely, it'd be better if we followed her lead: not worrying so much, reading more mystery novels, letting the kids manage themselves more often, buying the children lots and lots of books, etc. etc. Not everything is possible in this day and age (i/e: allowing your young son to open a line of credit at the local lumberyard and hardware store in order to build bookshelves for his siblings and then a large clubhouse which will inevitably blow away in a storm) or even smart (smoking like a chimney and then letting your child smoke so that it will not form into a habit of his) in this day and age, but really - wouldn't it just be easier to send the kids to bed with a piece of candy every night?

It's nice when you read about people you admire - amazing and somewhat glamorous people - and find that their life is, in ways, entirely relatable to your own. (It's like that time in middle school when I found out that one of the richest girls in our town ate Hamburger Helper for dinner; that's what we ate for dinner and my family was on food stamps!)

So, when I'm dealing with the everyday nuisances, like cooking one meal for a family that detests different things or constantly (CONSTANTLY) picking up after 4 people and 2 dogs, I will just think to myself, 'What would Shirley Jackson do?' and then I'll probably sit down with a mystery novel.

I highly recommend this. She's a marvelous writer.

When I came around the corner I stopped the car and stared; it was like meeting an old friend who has dyed her hair and taken to wearing tight velvet pants and mascara. (p.65)

I could not make it the way the recipe said to, however, because, inevitably, it contained ingredients which were distasteful to my family. I decided to leave out the onion because Sally would not eat anything so highly flavored as onions. I could not mix the ground round steak with rice because Laurie loathes rice. My husband could not bear tomatoes in any form, Jannie would not touch cabbage and no one in the family except me cared for sour cream. When I had finished eliminating from the casserole what I had was a hamburger studded with cashew nuts, which was undeniably a novelty, although I am afraid that on the whole my casserole was not a success. Everyone carefully removed the cashew nuts and set them aside, and Laurie asked irritably if we always had to have hamburger for dinner. (p. 144)

"Certainly," I said. "My only desire was to be a faculty wife. I used to sit at my casement window, half embroidering, half dreaming, and long for Professor Right."

"I suppose," she said, "that you
are better off than you would have been. Not married or anything."

"I was a penniless governess in a big house," I said. "I was ready to take anything that moved."

"And of course you
do make a nice home for your husband. Someplace to come back to, and everything so neat."

"My spinning lacks finesse," I said. "But I yield to no one on my stone-ground meal."

Day after day I went around my house picking things up. I picked up books and shoes and toys and socks and shirts and gloves and boots and hats and handkerchiefs and puzzle pieces and pennies and pencils and stuffed rabbits and bones the dogs left under the living room chairs. I also picked up tin soldiers and plastic cars and baseball gloves and sweaters and children's pocketbooks with nickels inside and little pieces of lint on the floor. Every time I picked up something I put it down again somewhere else where it belonged better than it did in the place that I found it. Nine times out of ten I did not notice what I was picking up or where I put it until sometime later when someone in the family needed it; then, when Sally said where were her crayons I could answer at once: kitchen windowsill, left. If Barry wanted his cowboy hat I could reply: playroom, far end of bookcase. If Jannie wanted her arithmetic homework, I could tell her it was under the ashtray on the dining room buffet. I could locate the little nut that came off Laurie's bike wheel, and the directions for winding the living room clock. I could find the recipe for the turkey cutlets Sally admired and the top to my husband's fountain pen; I could even find, ordinarily, the little celluloid strips which went inside the collar of his nylon shirt.

That was, of course, entirely automatic, like still remembering the home telephone number of my college roommate and being able to recite "Oh, what is so rare as a day in June"; if I could not respond at once, identifying object and location in unhesitating answer to the question, the article was very apt to remain permanently lost.
(pp. 268-269)
Profile Image for Phrodrick.
903 reviews39 followers
June 27, 2017
Shirley Jackson’s Raising Demons should have a wide market. No sex, no violence no bad words, family values galore and the demons are not especially demonic. It is even safe to go down into the basement- alone. When she takes a set up to the payoff; Ms Jackson is a good writer and a usually a good story teller. She can be a master at controlling domestic chaos. Those times when the kid, pets and life press from many directions; her narrator never loses her humor and can bite back when pushed too far. Yet it all feels too safe, too under control and there are too many set ups with no payoff. If you are looking for traditional family values, Raising Demons is all that plus. If you want more than an absence of sex and bad language Ms Jackson can be less than satisfying

Given the suspicions over freebie books and their review, my copy was a gift to me by an earlier reviewer of this same book. This was a gift from a friend, so not a verified purchase.

I have been looking for woman writer with things to say about more than families and harried house wives. Unfortunately I was given Raising Demons, a book about a harried house wife, with a distant, mostly decorative husband and more or less naughty children. Yes her children are casual about assuming mommy will clean up all mess and maintain whatever things, clothes, broken furniture, animals, and anything anyone tracks into the house. But mostly that is exactly what she does, so the assumption is invited.

An early set up is the classic meal time confusion and cross purposes that involve the neighbors, what they may think of our stay at home mom and the innocent inability of the children to hear themselves. All very aggravating, all very funny and in this scene wonderfully managed. In other chapters we have sets ups over a possible faked car accident, a somewhat funny shopping trip made complicated by someone giving her too much change and a broken refrigerator. All believable stories with humorous detailing and all lacking an appropriate punch line.

For a while I thought she had given up on delivering any great endings to stories but instead we get something closer to pointless shaggy dog stories, designed to or not they leave you hanging. Toward the end the levels of domestic mayhem remains more constant until we get to a wonderfully touching Christmas story.

The Christmas story is a beautiful tug at the heart story. Her writing keeps well away from maudlin or soppy. The warmth of family and the sincerity of emotion and pro-family feeling can make it easy to forgive the unevenness in parts of the book.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,711 reviews295 followers
January 14, 2011
Shirley Jackson's follow-up to Life Among the Savages covers the middle years of her children's lives. I loved every page. She is a consummate writer. The family moves to a larger home, acquires more cats and dogs, while Shirley learns the mixed emotions that come with being a faculty wife.

Once again I was amazed at the amount of humor and true affection for children that she brought to this further account of her family life. It is such a contrast to her spooky novels and the troubled characters she created for them.

Though I only had two children our house was always full of neighborhood kids. I also ran a daycare for a while. So I was right at home with the barely controlled chaos she describes. Her four children are as precocious as ever and she brings their characters to full life, especially in the way she has recorded their speech.

A huge amount of sheer energy propels this book. I got the sense of a woman driving a run-away buggy, just barely hanging on, who can only laugh at the crazy life she is having. Singlehandedly, she created a whole genre carried on by Jean Kerr and Erma Brombeck, not to mention Ayelet Waldman.

The final chapter is an account of their family Christmas: the hiding of gifts, the last minute special mail order, the decorating of the tree and the joy of the kids. It was so moving that I wanted to start a family all over again. Parenthood is possibly one of the hardest jobs in life and while Ms Jackson had as hard a time as any mother, I salute her for capturing the frustrations, rewards and humor of it all.
Profile Image for V. Briceland.
Author 5 books65 followers
July 27, 2021
To anyone familiar with any of Shirley Jackson's novels of horror, or her tales of psychological disintegration, or at least her most famous spine-chilling short story, "The Lottery," the notion that the same author penned two light-hearted book-length domestic memoirs might seem preposterous. Jackson's trenchant sense of humor, however, was always the leaven to her more macabre sensibilities; her rich appreciation of the absurd is, in fact, the engine to most of her writing. Even in the territory of less adept, more middle-brow writers, Jackson still manages to veer more left of center than you might expect. Her persona seems less akin to a typical New England mother and housewife and more (as implied by the title of her first memoir) to an anthropologist recording aboriginal customs, if not an outright alien spacewoman observing quaint Earthling rituals.

Both Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons are thoroughly enjoyable on their own merits. Demons is the more seamless of the two; it's obvious that from Savages she learned how to make the joins between previously-published magazine essays less noticeable.
Profile Image for Debbie.
865 reviews13 followers
January 9, 2021
Raising Demons, the sequel to Life Among the Savages, was not quite as funny as Shirley Jackson’s first memoir. Her four children are growing older and the irritation with her husband disappearing into his study and his constant complaints about the noise, dirt and expense of his family are a steady theme in this follow-up. The family moves from their first home in Vermont to a much larger home. This new home had been divided into 4 apartments, so major renovations will be required. I don’t think any writer can better describe the chaos of living with 4 children, 1 dog and several cats than Shirley Jackson. In between the humor are little barbs of dissatisfaction about the lack of time for herself, the lack of assistance from her husband, and the little appreciation from any of her family for the hard work she put in keeping the household running. I’m looking forward to reading, Let Me Tell You, a collection of her previously unpublished work that was put together by 2 of her children. And I feel sad all over again to realize that she worked so hard and died so young. The world lost a great talent.
Profile Image for Kevin.
336 reviews37 followers
July 30, 2015
This is some seriously wholesome apple-pie Americana mom-oir writing with just a dose of weird and I love it. I can't even begin to fathom that it's from the same Shirley Jackson that we know as ... well, Shirley Jackson.

I don't know how to say it all again but I'll try by using different words. It's a series of sincere and genuinely funny stories about her kids and her husband and her pets, back in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Baseball and cooking and running a household and tree houses and paper dolls and cats and dogs and somehow relating all of this in a fashion that had me laugh out loud probably once per story.

Nothing in here will change your life but it's such unaffected and pleasant reading that I feel obligated to recommend it next time you want something soothing to read before bed.
Profile Image for jacky.
3,496 reviews85 followers
March 29, 2007
I was disappointed that this wasn't as funny as Life Among Savages. As I had read about in Private Demons, this book seemed to show the darker turn her life took as it progressed.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books273 followers
November 10, 2013
I needed something light (and also light weight) for bedtime since I'm at Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings and not only is the journey stressful, but the book might crush me if I fell asleep reading it.

I was perusing my shelves and came across this old favorite which was just what I needed. Written with all of Jackson's usual skill, it is a complete opposite to her better known horror works (The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House). This book about life with her family may call to mind something like Please Don't Eat the Daisies or Erma Bombeck, but please believe me when I say it is something out of the ordinary. (You may hear some samples at Forgotten Classics if you are interested.) Only she can combine a seemingly mundane occurrences in ways that continually make me laugh out loud, though I've read the books many times before. In fact, she can do more with what is unsaid ... or half-said ... than any author I can think of.
By the Saturday before Labor Day a decided atmosphere of cool restraint had taken over our house, because on Thursday my husband had received a letter from an old school friend of his named Sylvia, saying that she and another girl were driving through New England on a vacation and would just adore stopping by for the weekend to renew old friendships. My husband gave me the letter to read, and I held it very carefully by the edges and said that it was positively touching, the way he kept up with his old friends, and did Sylvia always use pale lavender paper with this kind of rosy ink and what was that I smelled - perfume? My husband said Sylvia was a grand girl. I said I was sure of it. My husband said Sylvia had always been one of the nicest people he knew. I said I hadn't a doubt. My husband said that he was positive that I was going to love Sylvia on sight. I opened my mouth to speak but stopped myself in time.

My husband laughed self-consciously. "I remember," he said, and then his voice trailed off and he laughed again.

"Yes?" I asked politely.

"Nothing," he said.
Any description I give really doesn't do the book justice so please just give it a try.

Her previous book about her family, Life Among the Savages, is just as good. In fact, the book titles alone give you an idea of the humor contained therein.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 287 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.