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Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum
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Rabbits for Food

by Binnie Kirshenbaum

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"The dog is late, and I'm wearing pajamas made from the same material as Handi Wipes, which is reason enough for me to wish I were dead." - and so it begins. After her prior novel, the near-perfect The Scenic Route, this is quite a shock to the system (a spoiler would tell you how that's a bad pun). Protagonist Bunny (Binnie?), a failed writer, is mired in a terrible depression and plunges over the edge during a miserable hilarious New Year’s Eve party with some "friends" who'd seem pretty awful even if you weren't on the verge of a breakdown ("Bunny wonders how long she can sit at a table with five people engaged in passionate discourse about balsamic vinegar, the answer to which turns out to be three seconds."). There's a bit of awful family background, provided by a message sent by her younger sister: "and you wonder why we don't like you". There's the two debilitating deaths of a close friend and a cat ("To replace lost love, the way you replace your broken computer with a new one or replace the battery in your watch, is not an option."). And there's Bunny's dispiriting stay in a mental hospital, which proceeds without resolution. The flashes of wit here do not redeem the entire effort. Maybe it should have been put into a drawer and left there. Maybe it's about the author's life or maybe it's pure invention. Maybe that matters but it shouldn’t. Sad, sad, sad doesn't mean that art emerges from it.

Quotes: "The Girl Scouts, a socially regimented youth group ripe for totalitarian indoctrination, spend their weekends goose-stepping along mountain trails."

"To try to read the look on Bunny's face is like trying to figure out what a napkin is thinking." ( )
  froxgirl | May 26, 2019 |
Things have been getting worse for Bunny, given this name because her parents raised rabbits, and now, New Year’s Eve is approaching. Like every year, Bunny and her husband Albie will take part in the mandatory dinner with people they call their “friends” even though they don’t see them any other evening of the year due to obvious reasons. Albie would be fine to stay at home, but Bunny knows that even though she feels depressed, she needs to play along. But then, the worst case happens: she breaks down and finds herself in a psych ward.

The novel is divided into two parts: before and after, just like people who have a breakdown or have to live through a life-changing event, divide their life. For me personally, the two parts are so different that it is not easy to come to one conclusion in the end. I’d say: thumbs-up for the first half of the novel, but a strong trigger warning for the second.

Even though the protagonist is highly depressed and struggles with the smallest everyday actions, I found the beginning of the book often very funny since the author is a master of irony and a humour that I really liked. There are so many brilliant phrases, it was a great joy to read even though Bunny’s suffering is almost overwhelming. You slowly approach the climax, New Year’s Eve, and you know that something big is going to happen, thus the suspense becomes almost unbearable.

When Bunny is hospitalised, her welcome there still has some funny aspects, but only until the laughter gets stuck in your throat and Bunny’s life becomes utterly horrible. I have read several novels about psycho wards, “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Girl, interrupted”, which were not easy to support, but admittedly, more than once I was close to just stopping reading because I could hardly stand what the nurses and doctors there do to the patients. I hope that this is not reality – even though I fear that it might come much closer than anybody from the outside world would dream. No, what Bunny has to endure in hospital is not something nice and there is no need to embellish anything, but admittedly who could ever turn to such a place to find help?

Binnie Kirshenbaum surely is a remarkable and highly gifted writer, yet, this novel definitely should be accompanied by a warning. ( )
  miss.mesmerized | Apr 23, 2019 |
Please see my review on Amazon.com under C. Wong. Thank you. ( )
  Carolee888 | Apr 20, 2019 |
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