365 Days of Women Writers

Women writers only – no boys allowed

Day 44: The Summer People by Shirley Jackson

with 11 comments

This is a mundane story about a couple who decide to stay at their summer home after labor day and undergo a series of inconveniences: the kerosene man didn’t order enough kerosene to supply them with any for the next month, the grocery store stops delivering after labor day, their milk and eggs guy has gone out of town, their car breaks down…. And throughout, the locals all express shock that the couple would want to stay.

You might be thinking that this is barely worth being a story at all from my summary. What makes it stand out is that Jackson has made this rather pedestrian narrative into something that is very, very creepy. There is an underlying dread that is so skilfully done that it’s hard to even say if it’s actually there until she makes it explicit that the couple feels it too. But even then she never picks a side; you never know if there’s any real cause, if the unlucky couple will go home after a cold and hungry night or if something more sinister is waiting for them because they dared to stay beyond their welcome.

Written by Chance

October 31, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

11 Responses

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  1. Thought this was a boring little story until the last page and WOW… creepy. I wish Shirley had written a little more so you knew what happened. I guess it’s scarier to just imagine…


    Kathy K.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    • It was stupid and too long. Wasn’t worth the time.


      December 20, 2011 at 12:58 am

      • It’s about ten pages long…

        Graham Chaffee

        November 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

    • Um… what happens is the elderly couple dies of starvation and/or exposure in their dark, unheated cabin…

      Graham Chaffee

      November 6, 2012 at 8:00 am

  2. It made a big impression of Stephen King. Read his latest.

    Tony Rotondo

    December 29, 2011 at 1:52 am

  3. No story has ever stayed with me quite as much as “The Summer People.” The way the mundane morphs into the terrifying — without anything obviously dire ever actually happening — may be the most masterful storytelling effect I’ve ever encountered.

    The only competition for the slow build-up of horror from the ordinary is also from Jackson — her much more famous “The Lottery.”

    Thanks for the reminder.


    July 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    • Well said Claire…this story affected me too…very masterful…


      October 16, 2015 at 4:21 am

  4. the Allison’s get eaten …


    December 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm

  5. When I was in High School we did this play in an one act play. It was an interesting play I was the oil man.


    March 25, 2014 at 6:54 am

  6. Where did you find this story? I’ve been trying without success to find it.


    April 17, 2015 at 11:29 am

  7. There has been a twist with the story that Mr. Allison was actually behind it all. He is going to kill his wife in that summer house so he can be reunited with the widow they met in town. Wow.


    May 12, 2015 at 10:56 am

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