A fictional young couple spends a year at Bennington in 1964 with novelist Shirley Jackson and her husband in this captivating psychological thriller.
“This homage psycho-thriller, starring the illustrious Jackson, paints a partly true, partly fictitious portrait of a writer about whom many 21st-century fans know little. Merrell brilliantly weaves events from Jackson’s life into a hypnotic story line that will please Jackson fans as well as anyone in search of a solidly written literary thriller. And it’s far from derivative. Its merit lies in its inventiveness even as it draws inspiration from Jackson’s own stories….One of the best things about Shirley is that you don’t have to be familiar with Jackson’s stories to enjoy it. But old fans and the newly curious will want to reach for “The Lottery” and revel in its timeless gothic perfection.”–Carol Memmott, Washington Post Book World
“Shirley, at its core, is about exactly that kind of connection: the one that endures despite all else. From the outside, these relationships can look like duty or desperation or simply two people who have given up on finding real happiness in exchange for certitude. The brilliance of Jackson’s life and Merrell’s writing is that they convey the depth and beauty of this kind of connection, showing that it isn’t an endurance exercise, but rather the scarred-but-surviving tree that grows from a root of unrivaled strength: Love. Like Jackson herself, love endures. In the end, Shirley is a love story, albeit an unexpected and uncomfortable one—perhaps the only kind that could ever be told by or about Shirley Jackson.”–Hugh Ryan, The Daily Beast
“To the great literature of obsession we can now add Susan Scarf Merrell’s brilliant and captivating Shirley, a novel as full of passion and intrigue as any traditional love story. The twist is that the obsessive in these pages is a quiet young academic wife and the object of her fascination is none other than gothic storyteller Shirley Jackson. A fantastically original book.”—Ann Packer, author of Swim Back to Me and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
“Susan Scarf Merrell writes about desire, female friendship, and obsession with a true storyteller’s sense of the human heart. Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman, giants in the world of twentieth century letters, make for a brilliant intersection of vivid fiction and literary myth set in the vortex that is North Bennington, Vermont. Shirley is a love story that will keep you up all night.”—Susan Cheever, author of e.e. cummings, a life
“In this elegant, disturbing and propulsive literary novel, Merrell imagines an intense and troubled relationship with the author Shirley Jackson—and in so doing finds a new way to explore a reader’s sometimes ecstatic love for a favorite author. An unusual and arresting blend of fiction and homage.”—Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life
“…unsolved mystery stokes an atmosphere of quiet menace. Her decision to blend fact and fiction adds to a lingering sense of uncertainty, with set pieces—including a cameo for Bernard Malamud—providing comic relief. A sidelong portrait of a category-defying writer dovetails surprisingly snugly with the drama of one young woman’s coming-of-age.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Jackson has always been one of the more intriguing and misunderstood writers of her generation, a woman writer at the cusp of feminism’s second wave who nevertheless was erroneously dismissed for writing mere ‘domestic fiction.’ Merrell brings this complicated and compelling woman to life through the kind of taut and intimate thriller Jackson herself would have been proud to call her own.”
Click here to view Shirley on Goodreads.
“Journalist Merrell’s heart-wrenching first novel draws on her knowledge of family systems (as revealed in The Accidental Bond: How Sibling Connections Influence Adult Relationships). In the coastal village of Sag Harbor, NY, Deborah and Chris Latham are resolute about having adopted, as an 18-month-old, a Romanian orphan named Michael. But after years of coping with Michael’s abusive and difficult behavior, they can no longer watch as his actions begin to affect the well-being of their marriage and their older daughter, Caroline. The Lathams have to face a parent’s worst nightmare. Detailed prose and rich dialog shape this intricate story, which is comparable to the novels of Sue Miller and Chris Bohjalian. This provocative book will make every reader think hard about the responsibilities of parenting and the complexities of marriage. A potential Oprah pick; recommended for all public libraries.” – Library Journal
“Superb.” – Wall Street Journal
Many books have attempted to tackle the complex theme of sibling connection. But rather than look at the minutae of these relationships, journalist Susan Scarf Merrell examines the big issues that all siblings wrestle with in their own unique ways *in particular the Three Cs: Competition, Cooperation, and Comparison. What she discovered was that no matter what kind of relationship we now have with our siblings *close or distant, loving or hostile *our histories with them exert a profound effect on our current relationship with lovers, friends, coworkers, and our own children. Drawing on the most current research; the work of psychologists, psychiatrists, and family experts; and stories from brothers and sisters themselves, Merrell illustrates that through siblings, we come to know both the worst and the very best that lurks within each of us.
“A fascinating and informative read.” – The Boston Globe
“A RICH SOURCE OF FASCINATING MATERIAL about the complex realities of siblinghood and a valuable commentary on the impact that these little-studied relationships have upon our lives.” – The New Republic
“Merrell probes the complex unions that exist between siblings and the long-term effect of these relationships on the adult psyche. By examining nine sets of siblings, Merrell is able to explore such intriguing questions as how two or more children can grow up in the same environment and yet perceive their common experiences so very differently. Among the more interesting phenomena that Merrell analyzes is the ability of an adult sibling to project onto a brother or sister those negative qualities the first sibling possesses. As each set is studied, a wide range of attachments and disconnections is revealed, from the two sisters who–because they grew up in a rather odd family situation–came to depend completely upon each other in childhood and beyond, to a set of three where one always felt the outsider, rejected by the other two. A perceptive look at children and why they develop into the adults they become.” – Brian McCombie, Booklist
“Susan Merrell brilliantly illuminates how the peculiar mix of biology, history, and intimacy makes our attachments to siblings so essential to knowing ourselves.” – Mary Kay Blakely, Author of American Mom