by Annie Hartnett
After reading Rabbit Cake, you'll wonder how your perspective could have been so narrow. The shining star of the novel is Elvis Babbitt, ten-year-old girl and one third of the survivors grieving the loss of her mom. Eva Babbitt sleepwalked into a river and drowned.
The Babbitt family was dysfunctional before Eva died, so it's a given that death couldn't make matters any better. Somehow the author, Annie Hartnett, presents their world as gracefully as if they were like anybody else, humanity intact, even as Dad wades through the house wearing his dead wife's bathrobe and her lipstick because, “they remind me of Eva.”
Older sister Lizzie sleepwalks (it runs in families) and worries Elvis with her penchant for eating things that are not food. And Lizzie has taken possession of her mother's favorite cake pan, setting a goal of baking 1000 rabbit cakes for a Guinness World Record. Dad rents extra freezer space in town.
The task of herding the family through eighteen months of healing (per a school counselor's guideline) seems to be left to Elvis, a girl whose habits most resemble normal—if you don't count her detective work into her mom's illicit affairs, or her fascination with the naked mole rat, the longest living rodent.
There's a lot of healing to be found in this brave and goodhearted novel, and along the way you'll pick up on a little zoology—a win/win. One caveat: Rabbit Cake is most appropriate for adults.
Reviewed by Sue Ellis.
Tin House Books
You can't not love this book. My gut feeling is that the author is capable of writing with great kindness. Pair that with a talent for keeping the story on its edge, page after page. It's hard not to read it in one sitting. Just lovely, intelligent, and perceptive stuff, all of it, and funny to boot.