FICTION

Shirley

Blue Rider. Jun. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780399166457. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101636534. F
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When young newlywed Rose Nemser's husband, Fred, secures employment in the English department of Vermont's Bennington College with Stanley Edgar Hyman, they are invited to reside with Hyman and his wife, novelist Shirley Jackson, in their eccentric household. In that year, 1964, Rose and Shirley share a unique friendship, and Rose learns of the many sides to this prolific writer with a flair for the macabre. Was Shirley an insecure mercurial recluse with jealous tendencies? Was the unconventional author a maternal, larger-than-life figure who loved hosting dinner parties for the literary elite, or was she a vengeful eccentric dabbling in witchcraft? When Rose discovers an 18-year-old cold case of a missing young Bennington coed, she immerses herself in the details and begins wondering whether Shirley's macabre thinking crossed over into action.
VERDICT Merrell (A Member of the Family) weaves a compelling fictional tale that reads almost like a biography, with a mystery loosely intertwined. With numerous literary references and unique subject matter, this may only appeal to a select niche of mystery readers or literary scholars. [As Entertainment Weekly noted in a recent issue, Jackson, author of the classic short story "The Lottery," is enjoying a resurgence with Penguin reissuing her novels and the Library of America edition of Novels and Stories.—Ed.]

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