Home Books Review: ‘The Rabbit Hutch,’ by Tess Gunty

Review: ‘The Rabbit Hutch,’ by Tess Gunty

by Jersey Lady

Rabbit Hutch, Tess Ganty


Killing a loved one is all a writer’s prerogative, but it takes a certain elan to kill the actual protagonist on the first page. Or at least slide her beyond this human plane, as Tesganti does in the opening of “The Rabbit.” Hutch”: “A hot night in apartment C4, Brandin’s Watkins breaks out of her body. She’s only 18, but she’s spent most of her life hoping this could happen.” rice field.”

It’s one of many bold moves in Ganti’s dense, prismatic, and often captivating debut, a novel of impressive scope and specificity that makes storytelling more than the big idea. If you work too hard to squeeze into broad concepts, it almost fades away. The parameters of the story itself are almost entirely limited to her summer week in the fictional Midwestern city of Vaccavale, Indiana. Decades ago it collapsed under a cloud of debt and ecological misbehavior.

Brandin is the native child of Vacca Vale, but is rarely cared for. He’s a self-taught and creepy Valkyrie beauty. I once had a mother. In a few expertly sketched sentences, there was a fateful oxycodone habit and a father in prison. Then a series of foster parents. Now she works at a local diner that focuses heavily on avant-garde pies, with flavors of the day including Lavender Lamb and Banana Charcoal.

The title of the book derives from their building: originally designed to house the workers of the Zone and named La La Piniere in an act of misplaced faith and European flair, it is now It is a run down complex and nobody is actually a rabbit hutch. The walls there are “so thin that you can hear everyone’s life going on like a radio.” Ganti walks through walls with God’s Eye and in and out of his C12-like unit where a widower in his 60s secretly checks his ratings. C6’s elderly couple enacts a pattern of old-fashioned low-level domestic strife in the smoke-filled living room, while C8’s fragile young mother, Hope, struggles to bond with her newborn, Find solace in reruns of Golden Age sitcoms. It is called “Meet the Neighbors”.

The death of the show’s former star, an apple-faced American lover named Elsie Blitz, is heartbreaking news for Hope, but the book lets you dive into Malibu. The parents of Moses Robert Blitz, the only child of , are far less devoted. Elsie is a familiar archetype, but a well-drawn one. She’s the consummate Hollywood monster, so carefree and devoted to her pleasure-seeking, and so stunted by her fame that the whole persona, even in her early fifties, makes her Raised her son who is formed of hate.

It takes a series of events for another Hatch resident, Joan Kowalski, to summon him to Vacca Vale, but Joan isn’t the kind of siren who lures men into crushing them into rocks of desire. At the age of 18, “She has a question-mark posture, a stock face, and 19th-century glasses. Her loneliness is as striking as the cross that hangs around her neck.” But she works for an online obituary portal, and Elsie’s virtual memorial wall provides an itchy and enraged Moses with a volcanic outlet for emotions he never admits to grief, skipping his mother’s funeral. provide a reason to There was little room for him.

His own quirks are numerous, and Ganti, who lives in Los Angeles, skillfully pits them against the self-respecting stupidity of show business and coastal elitism. The loose morals of the Me Decade artists and bohemians that once swirled around Elsie in her prime. For me, Vaccabert is nothing more than a Midwestern void that projects itself. ’ But for Brandin, it’s a place of near-totemweight weight. It’s the only home she’s ever known, a place she’s determined to defend against an influx of local developers who equate prosperity not with trees and parks, but with new-build condominiums.

Her elaborate efforts to sabotage these citizens’ plans become one of the novel’s lesser-resonant threads, a stylistic outlier, and its ending never quite syncs with the larger story. Closer, and more interesting, is how a girl who could say voluminous monologues about medieval saints and late capitalism became a high school dropout serving weird pies. Brandin, as it was eventually revealed, wasn’t her birth name, and until fairly recently, she was at the prom at a local prep school, willing to accept kids on scholarships with her insane IQ and sad backstory. Even if she wasn’t a queen, she was an academically outstanding figure.

The reason she suddenly left before fourth grade turned out to be an old story, or at least “Lolita”. . One of her narrative delights is her extravagant use of language that is a seashell spiral of meaning, all the rhythm and repetition extracted from the dull casing of everyday life. Ganti’s writing is so rich in texture and subtext that it sometimes tumbles over decadent meals and too much of a Paul Thomas Anderson film. (Ganti earned an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University.) doing)

But she also has a way of thumbing the fragility and absurdity of being human in the world. All soft and secret needs and strange intimacy. The best writing in this book has a ton to choose from, but even the usual details hit the mark in that realization. The high school’s restrooms “are like air raid shelters, windowless structures of cinder blocks painted the color of sharks.” Looming in it all, the fate of her body at the balance is Brandin. Despite her extraterrestrial cuteness and macabre precocious gifts, she’s still a teenager. , a metaphysical exit, or whatever comes next.


Leah Greenblatt is a reviewer for Entertainment Weekly.


rabbit hutchTess Ganti | | Page 338 | Alfred A. Knopp | $28

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