Friday, November 1, 2013

Rabbit Remembered

The final entry in the Rabbit Angstrom series by author John Updike is entitled Rabbit Remembered. This book was published in 2001, a little over a decade after the last full novel in the series, Rabbit at Rest. At the end that story, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom had died of a massive heart attack. Now, we enter in the life of those he left behind a decade after his passing. Even after all this time, Harry's presence still looms large over his family. Janice, his widow, now in her early 60s has grown into the family matriarch. Although more seasoned and more in control of her life, she still battles with her same demons. She has married Harry's old childhood friend, Ronnie Harrison. It turns out that Harry actually despised Ronnie and saw him as a brute and a classless loser. Ronnie also resented Harry for so many things, not the least of which was his long affair with his wife Thelma who died of lupus more than a decade ago. Eventually we learn that Ronnie courted and married Janice not so much out of love for her, but as a way to get back at Harry, to claim something that was his. To finally beat Harry at his own game. Ronnie is clearly a bit of a low-life weasel, but he is good for Janice and provides her stability and someone to grow old with.

The story also follows Harry and Janice's son Nelson who has stayed cleared of drugs for more than ten years. After he stole more than a quarter of a million dollars from his parent's to support his habit, which eventually cost them their Toyota dealership, he went into a career in helping the down-and-outs of society. He went into this life not so much because he wanted to help those who struggled as he struggled, but because he has taken on the role of martyr to deflect the blame he still feels for what he put his parents through. He still feels that everything he did was not his fault, however, he has finally become at 43 years old, something of a responsible man. He has gained some perspective and respect for his father. Also we are reintroduced to Annabelle, Harry's illegimate daughter from his liaison with Ruth after he walked away from his marriage back in the 1950s. Annabelle has her own life's baggage, and now at 40 and single, was encouraged by her mother to seek out the Angstrom clan as her only remaining family. This reunion is initially painful and awkward, but ultimately serves as a positive thing for both Annabelle and Nelson. We finally get a bit of a happy ending after so much negativity and scheming and selfishness. A great way to end a most enjoyable series.

This novella was included in Updike's book Licks of Love, that included as well a dozen random short stories that I will review in an upcoming post.