"Who likes Rabbit, apart from his author?" Hermione Lee asks in The New Republic.
Sexist, dumb, lazy, illiterate (he spends the whole novel not finishing a book on American history), a terrible father, an inadequate husband, an unreliable lover, a tiresome lecher, a failing businessman, a cowardly patient, a typically "territorial" male: What kind of moral vantage point is this?
But, she writes, "What redeems Rabbit is that, inside his brutish exterior, he is tender, feminine, and empathetic."
Set in Brewer, Pennsylvania, a fictional counterpart of the real-life city of Reading, Rabbit, Run examines the experiences of a young man who is trapped in an unfulfilling life and his equally unfulfilling attempts to leave his family and find a new life. When the book was first published, it shocked many readers with its explicit descriptions of sexuality, and according to Robert Detweiler in John Updike, some reviewers even speculated that Updike wrote a scandalous novel on purpose to capture the attention of the reading public. However, Detweiler notes, in the ensuing decades, standards of what was appropriate and acceptable in novels have been greatly relaxed, and "it can now be appraised much more objectively in terms of its artistic qualities."
Since writing Rabbit, Run, Updike has written three other novels about Rabbit, at approximately ten-year intervals: Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981), and Rabbit at Rest (1990). Rabbit Angstrom has become Updike's most well-known character, and Rabbit, Run is his most recognized book title. He has won numerous awards and honors and is widely regarded as one of America's great novelists.