Rabbit at Rest

by John Updike

Hardcover, 1996

Call number






"Ex-basketball player Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom has acquired heart trouble, a Florida condo and a second grandchild. His son, Nelson, is behaving erratically and his wife, Janice, decides in mid-life to become a working girl. As, through the winter, spring and summer of 1989, Reagan's debt-ridden, AIDS-plagued America yields to that of George Bush, Rabbit explores the bleak terrain of late middle age, looking for reasons to live."

User reviews

LibraryThing member samatoha
the best of all the rabbit books,which are all great.
Updike achives the perfect combination between poetic,delicate symbols and authentic realism writing, a talent that grew bigger with experience and time.
Rabbit tries to deal with the big questions of life and death in his uninitiated ways ,now
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(age 55) more profoundly and impressive than ever.
Flaubert would have been proud of this book.
a pure masterpiece of style,depths and enjoyment,that shows more truth about the rural,middle-class America than most other American fiction,and with much better quality.
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LibraryThing member literarilyspeaking1
This was my favorite of the whole quartet, at least from what I can remember of Rabbit, Run. Nelson is still as annoying as he was in Rabbit is Rich (My review here) , but Harry is much less horrible than he was in Rabbit Redux (My review here). In fact, he seemed to mellow out a whole lot more and
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actually start to stand up for what he thought should happen instead of sitting back and taking it all.

Janice started to redeem herself in my mind in this book, but kind of threw it all away in the latter part of the book. I didn't like her in Redux because she put herself before the welfare of her son, and she was just really, really dumb in Rich. She was still far too indulgent of Nelson and his immaturity, but she actually stood up to him, which he needed.

As always, Updike was one of the masters of prose writing. Some of these passages are amazingly brilliant and detailed. Here's an example:

Up, up; the air thins, the barometer registers, the timer begins to tick as the plane snugly bores through the darkness and the pilot chats on the radio while the cockpit lights burn and wink around him and the passengers nod over their drinks in their slots of pastel plastic. This image, like a seed at last breaking its shell in moist soil, awakens in Harry the realization that even now as he lies here in this antiseptic white fog tangled in tubes and ties of blood and marriage he is just like the people he felt so sorry for, falling from the burst-open airplane: he too is falling, helplessly falling, toward death. The fate awaiting him behind this veil of medical attention is as absolute as that which greeted those bodies fallen smack upon the boggy Scottish earth like garbage bags full of water.

I'm still failing to see where this quartet is a "valentine to (Updike's) country" as Joyce Carol Oates said, but I think this is a book, if only for the prose alone, belongs in the American canon of great books.

My rating: 8/10
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LibraryThing member alexrichman
Often held up as the best Rabbit novel, but I still think it lags behind the first. Visceral accounts of our protagonist's ill-health and a heart-stopping passage that echoes the superb bathtub scene of Rabbit Run, stick in the memory more than anything in the two intervening entries.
LibraryThing member agnesmack
This was the fourth and final book in Updike's Rabbit series, and the 2nd of the series to win the Pulitzer. While I did love this book, it was definitely not the best of the series. One of the things I love about Updike is his attention to detail and the richness he brings to characters and
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situations but he went a little overboard in this book. It seemed that he'd done an awful lot of research for the series and wanted to make sure to jam all that remained into the last book.

That said, it was still excellent. I haven't been huge into series in the past, but this was definitely a series that I am sad to see end. Rabbit was a rich character and it was really interesting to follow his life for 40 years, in 10 year increments.
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LibraryThing member AshRyan
As the title suggest, Rabbit at Rest is about death. It is obsessed with death, Updike's love song to it. He lovingly details Rabbit's aging and increasing frailty, from his clogged arteries and heart disease, to his decreasing sexual appetite, to his bathroom habits and his nostril hairs. He makes
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snide remarks about bodily functions practically every other sentence (which would be almost funny if it weren't just kind of sad and pathetic). He harps on such mundane aspects of life as if they had some metaphysical significance---or perhaps to insinuate that nothing does, which comes to the same thing. He writes things like (in this case, describing radio): "We are noisy vermin, crowding even the air." (Updike is basically a misanthrope with a flair for turning a phrase.) He writes that all material existence is sad because transitory, and there is no other kind.

While this is all very wrong and unpleasant, there is a kind of internal unity and artistic integrity to it, and in places he seems almost as sincere as he did back at the beginning of the series in Rabbit, Run. Unfortunately, as the series progresses, it becomes increasingly about Rabbit's son Nelson, who is an even less sympathetic character and not nearly as interesting. I spent most of this book just waiting for Rabbit to die. But, if you've made it this far, all the way through Rabbit Redux and Rabbit is Rich, you may as well read this and finish the series off, as this is better than those were (but still not as good as the first).
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LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
The last book in the Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom series. I enjoyed this one, although towards the end I felt the vitality of the characters started to decline -- perhaps to reflect Rabbit's own decline.

Rabbit, Run and Rabbit at Rest are the strongest and most compelling in the series -- too bad they
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bookend the lesser-quality Rabbit Redux and Rabbit is Rich books.

I am still convinced that John Updike is one of the best out there.
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LibraryThing member santhony
Rabbit at Rest is the fourth and final installment of the tetralogy written by John Updike, featuring as its protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. This book follows Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux and Rabbit is Rich which follow the life of Angstrom in his hometown of Mt. Judge, near Brewster,
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Pennsylvania. When we left Rabbit at the conclusion of Rabbit is Rich, he has settled into a comfortable middle class lifestyle as the successful owner (through his wife Janice) and operator of a Toyota dealership in Brewster. He is a country club member and a pillar of the community, experiencing some mid-life crises, mainly having to do with his ne’er-do-well, college-aged Nelson with whom he has a running conflict.

Rabbit at Rest finds Angstrom roughly ten years later, semi-retired and spending winters in Florida with his wife Janice while Nelson runs the family dealership.

The time frame is the late 80s, George Bush, the elder, is President, and cocaine is the drug of choice. Most of the action centers upon Rabbit’s dysfunctional relationship with his son and the resulting conflict which necessarily develops between he, his wife and daughter-in-law as the prodigal son systematically destroys the family legacy. Rabbit’s declining health and his relationship with his grandchildren are also story lines.

While much of the writing is entertaining and very well done, it must be noted that at times, Updike seems to fly off on wild screeds of florid, almost unintelligible prose that leave the reader simply rolling his eyes. In fact, I found this annoying trait to be far more common in this installment than in the previous three. I lost count of the number of ways Updike describes the smells and tastes of female body parts in various states of arousal.

Nevertheless, the characters contained in the story are well presented and fleshed out beautifully, even some of the more peripheral players. All in all, this is a fascinating look at life during the late 80s, from the perspective of a middle class, Pennsylvania family, though Rabbit and his circumstances can hardly be viewed as representative. In fact, each of the four installments acts as an in-depth look at American society, and taken as whole give an accurate depiction of American life and societal mores from the late 50s through 1990. As such, the series is quite instructive, immensely entertaining and for someone of my generation, quite reflective.
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LibraryThing member copyedit52
I read the first Rabbit book and then this one, the last in that series, thirty years later. My younger self liked Rabbit, Run a lot--five stars worth. But then I was put off, over then years, by essays written by Updike in NYRB and some general things I read about him, including the opinions of
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others--including moves based upon his books, like The Witches of Eastwick--which influenced me, which is to say I foolishly formed some secondhand preconceptions.

At any rate, recently I've been reading authors whom I've had these nebulous, prejudicial attitudes about--often contemporary or almost contemporary writers, like Philip Roth and Saul Bellow (I discovered I don't care for Bellow, whom I find turgid, and can only take a few of Roth's books, because of his sexual o0bsessions). And then I came to this one Rabbit at Rest, which I thought superlative.
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LibraryThing member deldevries
It felt like I was on a long winding road to nowhere, but with detailed descriptions of everything and everyone in sight. A newspaper on the kitchen table was where I stopped ... flipping to the end of the book there was another newspaper. Good for a laugh!
LibraryThing member amaraki
At times I really enjoyed reading this book with its spot on observations on contemporary life (1980's) and its humour. That said, I really couldn't finish it as it was such slow going with all those endless descriptions of trees, and streets and.... before he would get around to some action to
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move the plot and dialogue on. Plus why be so patient to get through all the description when the protagonist is such a creep: self-centered and self-serving, only slightly morally improved from his youth (Run Rabbit Run- I did get through that one). Seems life didn't teach him much. A pretty depressing and cynical progression overall.
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LibraryThing member brakketh
Sad in a way for this character to complete his life but an enjoyable series.
LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
RABBIT AT REST by John Updike is the second Rabbit book I have read over the last ten days. RABBIT IS RICH is the better book. Probably a masterpiece. Enormously energetic. RABBIT AT REST is less energetic as you might expect since Rabbit is at rest. Rabbit is in retirement and spending half his
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year in Florida and the other half in Pennsylvania Dutch country where he is from and where Updike is from. Nonetheless, the book moves along pretty well. This book contains more about Nelson his son who has unsuccessfully taken over Springer Motors, the family business and run it into the ground to finance his drug habit. At the end Rabbit is in the ICU, quite sick but still alive, leaving room for yet another Rabbit book. Now I want to read the first and second volumes. I will soon start Rabbit Run, the first volume. I highly recommend this book. The Rabbit books are Balzacian in that they depict the social venue of the period. They are a good take on American society at the time.
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LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
This was a concluding statement about the whole of America based in Updike's writings. I found this was another good book in the tetralogy, much better than the second and a slight downward from the third. The characters here are older, particularly Rabbit, and they are dealing with the denouements
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and conclusions of their lives and existences. Updike explores social issues through these characters and, ultimately, points the finger back at America for what it has created and for what it has become. It was a good conclusion to the series and I'm glad I read it.

3 stars.
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