It's 1959. Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is 26, sells the MagiPeel Peeler to housewives in store demonstrations, is married with a 2-year-old son and another child due in a couple months. Two or three times a week he stops by a local basketball court where the boys are playing and gets himself included in the game. Eight years earlier he had been at his best, the star of the high school basketball team. Now he just goes from day to day.
At the beginning of Rabbit, Run, Rabbit gets home to find the car missing and his wife Janice sitting in their apartment watching television half drunk. There's no supper and their son Nelson isn't there. When questioned, he learns their son is at his parents and the car is at her parents. After a brief arguement, she goes to make dinner and he goes to get the car and Nelson. But he only gets the car. Instead of getting Nelson, he starts driving. He has decided to leave his small town on the side of the mountain in Pennsylvania and go south.
He drives most of the night, getting twisted and turned around constantly. Finally he stops at a small diner in West Virginia. He decides to return to Pennsylvania. But instead of returning to his wife, he visits his former coach. The next evening his coach introduces him to Ruth. Rabbit takes Ruth home and moves in with her in Brewster, the city next from his small town.
From there Rabbit's life continues along his impulses. He doesn't return home or call Janice or even his parents. But his father-in-law gave them the car, so he returns it to them. Although not there, they know he is safe. The Luthern minister Eccles meets Rabbit and convinces him to golf with him each week. Now Rabbit drifts along with a part time job and a woman who lets him stay with her. He knows Janice and Nelson are out there somewhere, but he puts them out of his mind quickly.
Rabbit, Run was written by John Updike in the late 1950's and is not your Father Knows Best type of book. Knowing when it was first published, I was surprised by the frankness of the sexual scenes. I didn't think that could be published in mainstream literature of the time. Rabbit is a selfish man who hasn't really done anything since he was in high school. In fact, one of the most noxious things about this anti-hero is his attitude of other people paying (hmmm, I was reading the same theme in The Great Gatsby while reading this...). About half way through the book he says "I'll tell you...When I ran from Janice I made an interesting discovery...If you have the guts to be yourself...other people'll pay your price." Never mind he doesn't know who he is, so I'm not sure how he could be himself.
We discussed this book in depth at my monthly book club. No one liked Rabbit, but the opinions for the book went from terrible to an excellent picture of the era and a social commentary for the time. While I didn't care the the characters or the story, Updike has interested me enough to make me consider reading the sequels - but not too soon. This is one of those books where the writing shines enough for the reader to be able to dislike the characters but still want to read it. You'll have to decide for yourself.
Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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