Raising Demons

Penguin Random House Audio. Mar. 2022. 8:51 hrs. ISBN 9780593608135. $20. MEMOIR
Kirsten Potter irresistibly narrates horror novelist Jackson’s (The Haunting of Hill House) second domestic memoir, a loose sequel to Life Among the Savages. First published in 1957, it contains moments that will strike modern listeners as part of a bygone America, from the price of groceries (measured in cents) to the casual sexism (“You ladies like everything just so”; “The next person you talk to will be my husband!”). Despite such cultural throwbacks, the stories collected here touch on timeless themes like needing more space for books and attending to one’s personal fulfillment while acting as primary caregiver. Listeners aware of Jackson’s fraught marriage may catch a whiff of darker emotions under the comical slices of life, though nothing as dark as the psychological horror for which she’s known. Sympathetically assertive in conflict and touchingly wistful while watching her children grow up, the nameless mother through whom Jackson fictionalizes herself and her family calls for performative range. Potter delivers an audio book that captures the warmth and humor of these tales but leaves Mom’s ironic edge appealingly sharp.
VERDICT Top-notch. It creates a new experience for re-readers and an engaging first-time listen for all others.
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