06 March 2017
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
Twelve-year-old Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly eighteen months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know—like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother's silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother's death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and the endurance of humor after loss.
When you're twelve, and your mom dies in a freak accident, you use whatever facts you have at your disposal to try and create a roadmap to grieving. Because that is the major problem facing Elvis Babbitt: there doesn't seem to be a single best way to get through mourning her mom. So she takes the best advice available - from her guidance counselor who is obsessed with her recent divorce - and carves out the next eighteen months to mourn and to try and figure out how to help her dad and sister mourn, too.
Rabbit Cake is a funny-sad-sweet slice-of-life novel about a girl and her family as they mourn the death of their mom/wife. Elvis is a really sharp narrator, precocious without being precious or too adult. As Elvis goes around collecting information and facts she occasionally gets the wrong end of the stick because she is a child; the adult characters eventually provide the right context for her. The cast of characters (Dad, out-of-control sister Lizzie, chatty parrot Ernest, stray roommate from the mental institution they take in Vanessa, school grief counselor Ms Bernstein, zoo veterinarian Dr Rotherwood) are kooky in that truth-is-stranger-than-fiction way. There's also a little bit of a Steel Magnolia edge - this family sticks together, through tragedy and mishap, and always finds a way to laugh.
Bonus: you get lots of animal facts, particularly about sleeping habits.
Dear FTC: I received a galley - thanks to the Tin House Galley Club for the ARC!