The Rabbit Hutch is the story of lives gone awry in the depressed town of Vacca Vale, Indiana. In the past, the town had been completely dependent on Zorn Automobiles. “For decades, Zorn Automobiles was a miracle, a heartbeat, an empire…” And then the factories closed. “After 1963, Zorn, a superhero in previous generations—became the Vacca Vale bogeyman.” Zorn left behind environmental issues, empty buildings and despair.
The novel begins with an incident in one of the apartments in La Lapiniere Affordable Housing Complex, also known as The Rabbit Hutch. Specifically, 18 year old “Blandine Watkins exits her body.” The exit is loud and other tenants in the building hear her screams.
The novel then introduces us to some of the other tenants, one of whom is Joan Kowalski. Joan, 40 years old, works at Restinpeace.com, where she scans comments to obituaries and removes anything negative about the deceased. Joan is responsible for reviewing the obituary for a child television star named Elise Blitz, who has died at age 86. Ms. Blitz had been a child star in a television series called Meet the Neighbors, where she played “Susie Evans, a trouble loving spit-fire at the center of the series.” Ms. Blitz wrote her own, slightly embellished obituary. Ms. Blitz left behind a neglected and rather disturbed adult son, Moses Robert Blitz. Moses leaves an unpleasant message on his mother’s obituary and after some emails with him, Joan allows the comment to remain. Joan is disciplined by her boss for this and the comment is removed.
Blandine (f/k/a Tiffany) is a foster child of immense intellect and talent. She is given a scholarship to go to the town’s one and only private school, where she feels like an outcast but she thrives academically. One of her teachers, James, a music teacher, takes an interest in her and sparks fly. He asks her to babysit for his children and she discovers he is wealthy and lives in a mansion. “The house is inconveniently magnificent.” His wife comes from “Zorn money.” When the relationship between James and Blandine progresses, James feels regret and distances himself. Blandine’s reaction is to drop out of school.
In the meantime, Blandine’s three male, 19 year old roommates are sacrificing animals at frighteningly accelerating rates. When Blandine brings home a goat, there is trouble. We learn the story of the animal sacrifices, the goat and Blandine’s exit from her body from one of the 19 year old roommates, who is telling his story to the police.
Moses Blitz, 53 years old, writes a mental health blog, which is quite ironic since he has what appears to be serious mental health issues. Moses is quite bitter about his mother and is also bitter towards Joan for removing his comment on his mother’s obituary. Moses, who lives in California, decides to travel to Vacca Vale to teach Joan a rather bizarre lesson. While in the process, he discovers what is going on in Blandine’s apartment.
Throughout the novel the possibility of community development looms and Blandine grows increasingly agitated at the prospect. She also carries a book, “She Mystics: An Anthology” with her everywhere she goes and is obsessed with the mystics. The other tenants in the Rabbit Hutch are a side story in the novel, but the focus is on Blandine and Moses.
The novel is sort of dark and disturbing, with humorous moments and a hopeful ending. This novel is not for everyone, but it is well written and unlike just about anything else. It also won the 2022 National Book Award for fiction. The Rabbit Hutch can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.