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Rabbit at Rest Paperback – August 27, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's 1989, and Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom feels anything but restful. In fact he's frozen, incapacitated by his fear of death--and in the final year of the Reagan era, he's right to be afraid. His 55-year-old body, swollen with beer and munchies and racked with chest pains, wears its bulk "like a set of blankets the decades have brought one by one." He suspects that his son Nelson, who's recently taken over the family car dealership, is embezzling money to support a cocaine habit.

Indeed, from Rabbit's vantage point--which alternates between a winter condo in Florida and the ancestral digs in Pennsylvania, not to mention a detour to an intensive care unit--decay is overtaking the entire world. The budget deficit is destroying America, his accountant is dying of AIDS, and a terrorist bomb has just destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, Scotland. This last incident, with its rapid transit from life to death, hits Rabbit particularly hard:

Imagine sitting there in your seat being lulled by the hum of the big Rolls-Royce engines and the stewardesses bring the clinking drinks caddy... and then with a roar and giant ripping noise and scattered screams this whole cozy world dropping away and nothing under you but black space and your chest squeezed by the terrible unbreathable cold, that cold you can scarcely believe is there but that you sometimes actually feel still packed into the suitcases, stored in the unpressurized hold, when you unpack your clothes, the dirty underwear and beach towels with the merciless chill of death from outer space still in them.
Marching through the decades, John Updike's first three Rabbit novels--Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), and Rabbit Is Rich (1981)--dissect middle-class America in all its dysfunctional glory. Rabbit at Rest (1990), the final installment and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, continues this brilliant dissection. Yet it also develops Rabbit's character more fully as he grapples with an uncertain future and the consequences of his past. At one point, for example, he's taken his granddaughter Judy for a sailing expedition when his first heart attack strikes. Rabbit gamely navigates the tiny craft to shore--and then, lying on the beach, feels a paradoxical relief at having both saved his beloved Judy and meeting his own death. (He doesn't, not yet.) Meanwhile, this all-American dad feels responsible for his son's full-blown drug addiction but incapable of helping him. (Ironically, it's Rabbit's wife Janice, the "poor dumb mutt," who marches Nelson into rehab.)

His misplaced sense of responsibility--plus his crude sexual urges and racial slurs--can make Rabbit seems less than lovable. Still, there's something utterly heroic about his character. When the end comes, after all, it's the Angstrom family that refuses to accept the reality of Rabbit's mortality. Only Updike's irreplaceable mouthpiece rises to the occasion, delivering a stoical, one-word valediction: "Enough." --Rob McDonald

From Publishers Weekly

Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, morbidly depressed, overweight and living with wife Janice in a Florida retirement community, recovers from a heart attack and is led astray by his libido one last time. "Updike is razor-sharp and mordantly funny," said PW. "If this novel is in some respects an elegy to Rabbit's bewildered existence, it is also a poignant, humorous, instructive guidebook to the aborted American dream." The book took a Pulitzer Prize.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Rabbit (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449911942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449911945
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Antoinette Klein on May 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Having become enamored with Rabbit Angstrom through this magnificent tetralogy, I was sad to see the end finally come. Rabbit with his highly unlovable ways, his crude sexuality, his ethnic slurs, his disdain for the "dumb mutt" he married, all would normally tend to turn someone off, and yet Updike has made this anti-hero an endearing and enduring creation. Rabbit is the 20th century man in all his dysfunctional glory, who in spite of his many shortcomings, is like an old friend we are immensely fond of and want to keep up with.

Though all the books are well-written, it is in this fourth and final installment that Rabbit and Updike both reach their peak and mesmerize the reader. Rabbit at 55 is feeling the pains of a lifetime of beer-drinking and cholesterol-laden foods. While on an outing with his granddaughter, he suffers his first heart attack and thus begins his long trip into the valley of death and the nostalgic trip down memory lane that so often precedes that.

Looking back on his life, he decides it must be a religious tie that kept him with Janice as he can think of no other reason. Rabbit and Janice are now leading "the good life" and while cocaine-addicted son Nelson runs Springer Motors, the senior Angstroms spend six months of the year in sunny Florida where Rabbit golfs and Janice plays tennis and attends a women's group regularly. It is Janice that has changed most, making the best of her life with Rabbit while enjoying the carefree existence of a snowbird. It is surprising to Rabbit when he discovers that, though outwardly together, to herself Janice will always be the woman who drowned her own daughter.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By T. A. Gray on May 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Rabbit at Rest is a wonderful book, what more can I say?

During the reading of it, I continually wanted to pass judgment against Rabbit and characterize him as a "bad" person, but I couldn't. Rabbit at 55 years old isn't "bad" - he is a product of 55 years of life and sadly, he cannot seem to figure out how to change himself and get on a smoother road to peace & happiness, even though he wants to, he should, and knows he should.

Rabbit is a man stuck in routine. He talks down to Nelson, obsesses about infidelity, disregards his health, and sees Janice as a "dumb mutt" because he always has and doesn't know how to live his life any other way.

This book makes you think about how many of us there are who just can't figure out how to break out of our routines, even when those routines are unhealthy and killing us. We're all scared of change, just like Rabbit.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Stamper VINE VOICE on January 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
In this book, the Angstroms are semi-retired and living in Florida. Rabbit has a heart condition and he's not doing anything to improve his health. His son Nelson has grown into a wreck of an adult, to which Harry and his wife deserve the lion share of the blame. The parents are so old and respectable now, you forget what they put their son through, until he reminds them. You really want to root for Harry to overcome all of the obstacles he faces, like you root for charming outlaws to outrun the posse. You sense that Zeus and the Gods are sitting on Mt. Olympus using Harry Angstrom as their plaything. Despite the fact that Updike is given literature status (this book won the Pulitzer), it's very easy to get into. This isn't long and arduous James Joyce prose, but an easy to follow modern day story that will make you think. The series is either a scathing indictment of latter 20th Century middle-class America that invents their own agony or it's just Updike's view of how normal people live. Whichever, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys serious fiction.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard Pittman on August 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read the four Rabbit novels consecutively. It is difficult to write a review of Rabbit At Rest without looking back at the series. The four novels are a significant accomplishment. Rather than say I enjoyed the novels, I prefer to say I admire them. Four books written ten years apart follow the life of an average man from early adulthood through later life. Each book starts a decade later and explains what has occurred since the last book. Updike's age approximated Rabbit's as he wrote each book and we actually live Rabbit's life with him. I give five stars to the 4 novels which as I've mentioned in another review is greater than the sum of its parts.

Rabbit is Rich is the closing chapter and is really about Harry Rabbit Angstrom coming to terms with his mortality and reflecting on his life. His son has run the car dealership into the ground with his drug habit, his wife is blind to the son's issues and feels responsible because of what they'd put him through. Rabbit was once so powerful and virile and is now living in Florida half the year, golfing each day and living with the restrictions of a bad heart. He is still very self centered but it's hard not to cheer for him. As with all the novels, our access to Rabbit's thought are unrestricted and we get the good and the bad in a seemingly unfiltered form.

I thought the last hundred pages were outstanding and really tied the series together well as Rabbit runs from responsibility in a scene reliving the opening sequences of Rabbit Run.

I found Rabbit at Rest and Rabbit is Rich to be the best two books of the series as Updike matured with his character.

This is a tremendous literary accomplishment and I highly recommend reading all four books consecutively.
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