Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on October 21, 2016
The broad theme in Shirley Jackson's work is this: Do we hide/run from the world, in seeming (but false) safety or do we face it and live in it. And she usually portrays the world as a scary, lonely place. In this book, those turning away from the world are members of this family/cult who believe that only they will be spared from the upcoming end-of-the world. She takes a harsh look at religion. The religious themes are hard to miss as is her criticism IMO (murder of the son, the golden crown, the manipulation and bribery, control -- because she gives these a human form they take on the light of horror, but these are all religious themes, Christian themes). Am I the only one who sees this as a 'farce about'/'indictment of' religion? So few here comment on this theme though it is so very obvious. The True Believers are another competing wacky cult and, of course, each cult thinks the other is nuts. Also religion wants nothing so much as annihilation. End times, death are glorified in most religions as a gateway to paradise for the faithful. Thus the characters in this book are waiting rather than living.... Because it is too scary to face the world or because their best days are gone and they look forward to this glorious eternity. They seek the protection of their "Father" -- and waste this life and wait for heaven/ the end. Even the blackmail and manipulation to stay in the fold and to "believe" is part of mainstream religious belief. One of their party decides to leave but faces some nastiness in the world (arranged by the Cult Leader) that brings her back. Another is coerced to stay. Either way, God is the ultimate Mafia Boss bribing us with eternity to love him even if it means giving up on the only world we really know exists. Fancy, the small child says it when she tells Gloria that we already have a beautiful world. Why do we want this one to end to go to one that won't be better. Fancy also points out that people want a new world so they can be different but she does not think it works that way (this I think harkens to the idea that we will be magically perfected in heaven). The book is also prophetic for our times when religious zealotry is harming us more than it has in recent history, at least recent Western history. Religion is insane and Jackson makes it clear here that it is-- or at least she suggests that it is and we are lead to our own conclusions. And yet most of us are so steeped in the craziness that it sees that we cannot even see her critique of belief in this wickedly funny little book. In the end, Fancy (whim/chance) rules not religion, not planning, not trying to stay safe. WHEN SHALL WE LIVE IF NOT NOW. Beautifully written, of course.
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