When God Was a Rabbit is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time. If you speak to other people who have read the book, they may disagree. They may say it lacked spark or excitement, that is was dull, that it was ordinary. The truth is, it is a coming-of-age novel. And sometimes those stories don’t have to be anything – they can just be.
When God Was a Rabbit is a work of considerable charm. The novel is divided into two parts. The first I loved. The second I didn’t. Part 1 follows the story of brother and sister, Joe and Elly, who, as a child, is whimsically painted and makes you excited to read the book. The writing is vague but captivating, with a rolling rhythm, almost elegiac in tone, and lays out an intriguing set of circumstances. The characters are loveable and real, and seem strange, and odd, and a little bit sad. There’s a hint of hopeful melancholia throughout. I was completely hooked.
I was looking forward to the second half, but felt disappointed by the end. Too many of my questions were not answered. I realized the vague writing was all it would ever be: vague. There is a certain art to subtlety, but by the time I got to the end of the book, I felt that the author didn’t know what she was writing about. A lot of strange things happen to Elly and her family throughout the span of her life that the novel follows. These include: cancer, suicide, murder, sexual abuse, domestic battery, accidental death, kidnapping, aggravated assault, bombing, mutilation, stroke, amnesia and the death of a pet rabbit named “god.” And there is literally no explanation to anything. It was all very confusing.
Throughout the second part, many events occur in a very short amount of time. In a sense, while reading, the book gives you a mirror into the past. But huge moments in history, huge events, are revealed with a careless nonchalance. What happened to Joe? The actual 9/11 events didn’t have anything to do with him, they seemed to just be mentioned for effect.
Why does the rabbit talk? How? Is the rabbit really God? Is this magical realism? Is Jenny Penny some type of prophecy? None of these things are ever fully elaborated. In the beginning, the author describes Jenny Penny pulling a penny out of her arm from 1995 in the 70s. This storyline, and every other one, goes virtually ignored.
This book is not the literary masterpiece many claim it to be, but I give it merit for constructing beautiful sentences and creating an engrossing story (at the beginning).