Rabbit, Run by John Updike

It wasn't until I finished this novel and took a step back from it that I realized I liked it. On the outset I disliked it for leaving a bitter taste in my mouth but the more I thought about the story and Updike's portrayal of Rabbit, the more I appreciated it.

The novel centers around Harry "Rabbit" Armstrong, a 26-year-old salesman and former basketball star who, within the first 30 pages of the book, runs away from his wife and child in an effort to untie himself from the constraints of his life. In Rabbit's defense, his wife is a preggo alcoholic who barley manages to care for herself, let alone her own child. So, Rabbit runs, searching for whatever it is that is missing from his life.

"The odor of meat cooking grows more insistent as he explains what he thinks happened: how Harry has been in a sense spoiled by his athletic success; how the wife, to be fair, had perhaps showed little imagination in their marriage..."

Of course Rabbit never finds exactly what is missing and along the way he manages to hurt many people and destroy a few lives. There were times I wanted to shake Rabbit while screaming "What's wrong with you?" and every once in awhile I wanted to comfort Rabbit and offer him a hug. There is something to be said about characters like this; so complex and so realistic that they invoke real emotions within the reader. "The only thing special about him is he doesn't care who he hurts or how much." This basically sums up Rabbit on the outside; he is continually hurting people because of his irresponsibility yet somehow, I sympathize with him. Maybe because there is a part of him who is simply following his instincts in search of happiness. It's like his character is speaking to the restlessness associated with the convention of marriage and saying it's not always going to lead to happiness.

This book got under my skin. There were times I wanted to give up because I was disgusted by the world I was reading about, but in the end, I'm really glad I didn't. The ending, while very fitting, didn't offer much of a conclusion (this the first in the series of four), but the story overall was great. I would recommend this to readers who would like to meet the ultimate anti-hero.

I'm planning on reading the second novel in the series, but I'm going to give myself a little Updike/Rabbit break in the meantime. If I had to guess, I'm going to say that Rabbit is left unsatisfied for most of the series and will continually search for something. About halfway through Rabbit, Run his wife states, "No. He'll come back for the same reason he left. He's fastidious. The world he's in now, won't continue to satisfy his fantasies". I've got a feeling there isn't much out there that will continually satisfy Rabbit's fantasies, but I'd love to be along for the journey to find out.

Publisher: Alfred An Knopf
Year of First Edition: 1960

I'm counting this toward my 2010 Summer Reading Challenge and at 276 pages that puts me at a cool 1,346 pages.


  1. Great review. It is an interesting book. Difficult to read, but interesting. I reviewed it on my blog back in April: http://www.primoreads.com/2010/04/rabbit-run.html

  2. I have heard of the book, but I didn't realise it was a series. I have heard great things about Updike though

  3. One of my favorite books ever.