Weren’t the 1950s supposed to be the era of the organization man: a man who leads a life of prescribed normalcy without questioning? But Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a high school basketball star of only minor repute just eight years ago, now at age twenty-six, circa 1959, a demonstrator of vegetable peelers and married to Janice with whom he has lost a sense of connection, is unable to find equanimity in his life. One night, instead of picking up his young son, he runs; his all-night automobile journey is almost directionless but he returns by morning to his small town in Pennsylvania, where he struggles over the next few months to understand his situation and get his life together.
Rabbit at first seeks refuge with his old coach, through whom he finds Ruth, a rather down and out young woman - the anti-Janice - who wants nothing to do with him, but who finally provides Harry some stability. He also encounters a youngish Rev Jack Eccles, who sees core goodness in Harry, prods him during weekly golfing sessions, and builds bridges between Harry and Janice and her family. A reconciliation with Janice is short-lived with tragic consequences, leaving Harry still, literally, running at the end.
The book has the author’s typical highly nuanced descriptions, which can at times be very awkward and difficult, making the book a bit of a slow read. Despite lengthy descriptions of the fictional towns of Brewer and Mt. Judge, they remain rather muddled. Harry is not a reflective person, but the author subtly captures his appeal, especially to women. Characterizations are a strength of the book. Eventually, the actions and thinking of Ruth, Janice, her parents, etc come to be appreciated and understood. With Harry left in such a state of uncertainty at the end of the book, it is by no means predictable where Harry will be physically or mentally in the sequel to this book.
It may be debatable as to whether Harry is worth writing about. Perhaps he can be viewed as an everyman of the 1950s, especially one who fell through the cracks. It would have been interesting to see the author address the options that Harry had out of high school. What was he actually prepared to do? Why did he slip to being a vegetable-peeler demonstrator? But then maybe authors in the 1950s didn’t question much more than their characters. The book barely slips in as a four-star.
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hornbecksmith, August 1, 2008 (view all comments by hornbecksmith)
The beginning of the best series of all times. Love Rabbit or hate him, you can't help but become invested in his story. The final book, Rabbit at Rest, is the finest, but this one sets the tone and is wonderful all on it's own.
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by Random House,
Harry Angstrom was a star basketball player in high school and that was the best time of his life. Now in his mid-20s, his work is unfulfilling, his marriage is moribund, and he tries to find happiness with another woman. But happiness is more elusive than a medal, and Harry must continue to run--from his wife, his life, and from himself, until he reaches the end of the road and has to turn back....
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