Rabbit at Rest
|Publisher||Alfred A. Knopf|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3571.P4 R23 1990|
|Preceded by||Rabbit is Rich|
Rabbit at Rest is a 1990 novel by John Updike. It is the fourth and final novel in a series beginning with Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; and Rabbit is Rich. There is also a related 2001 novella, Rabbit Remembered. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1991, the second "Rabbit" novel to garner the award.
This novel is part of the series that follows the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom from 1960 to 1990. Rabbit at Rest focuses on the years 1988-9. Harry, nearly 40 years after his glory days as a high school basketball star in a mid-sized Pennsylvania city, has retired with Janice, his wife of 33 years, to sunny Florida during the cold months, where Harry is depressed, dangerously overweight and desperate for reasons to keep on living.
Unable to stop nibbling corn chips, macadamia nuts and other junk food, Rabbit nearly dies after a heart attack while sunfishing with his nine-year-old granddaughter, Judy. In a "redemption" of the drowning death of his infant daughter Rebecca in the earlier novel Rabbit, Run, he saves Judy from drowning during this incident.
He is distracted from his own existential worries by the acts of his drug-addicted son, Nelson, to whom Janice (the actual owner of the Angstroms' wealth) has given control of the family's thriving business, a Pennsylvania Toyota dealership. The discovery that Nelson has been stealing from the company to support his drug habit leads to Harry losing the family business. Despite his problems and growing unhappiness, he manages to take some comfort in Judy, who has turned out to be beautiful and charming, a reminder of himself in his high-school glory days. He is less attached to his four-year-old grandson Roy, who seems wary and fearful of Rabbit, much like Nelson.
While recuperating from heart surgery, Rabbit recognizes one of the nurses, Annabelle Byer, as the young woman he believes is his illegitimate daughter by his old girlfriend, Ruth. He becomes friendly with her but decides not to identify himself as her possible father. Around this time, his long-term mistress Thelma Harrison (wife of his high-school nemesis Ron) dies of lupus. Ron confronts Harry at Thelma's funeral, but the men later reconcile while playing golf. Harry also sees Cindy Murkett at the funeral, a woman he had sexually obsessed over 10 years ago, and is saddened to see she has become an obese and bitter divorcee.
After Nelson comes back from a treatment program, and Janice begins work as a real estate agent, the family finds out that Harry has had a one-night stand with Pru, Nelson's wife, on the night after he was released from the hospital. Janice's anger over this betrayal prompts Harry to escape to Florida. While in hiding, Harry has a heart attack shortly after winning a one-on-one basketball game with a local youth (echoing the opening of Rabbit, Run in which Harry impulsively joins a group of teenagers playing basketball). Nelson and Janice manage to get to his bedside while Harry is still alive; his wife forgives him, and he reconciles with his son. His personal business now resolved as much as possible, and therefore his life's work essentially completed, Rabbit dies.
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