Rabbit at Rest Summary
by John Updike

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Rabbit at Rest Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Rabbit at Rest ends the saga Updike began in 1960 in Rabbit, Run but brilliantly continues the history that Updike has been writing through the four volumes. Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is fifty-five when the novel opens in 1989, and as the Reagan years are winding down, so is Harry. He has ballooned to 230 pounds, and his addiction to junk food foreshadows his final demise. Harry’s problems are also the problems of America, for Updike is telling two complex histories here at once. In fact, readers see more of America in this final volume, for the first and last sections of the three-part novel take place in Florida, where Harry and his wife Janice live half the year in their condo.

Harry is followed from the first pages by a “sense of doom” that will trail him to his end. Harry and his son are estranged, and when Nelson arrives with his family for a Florida holiday, Harry suffers his first heart attack. Things are not much better when Harry returns to Beaver, Pennsylvania. He has had angioplasty (to avoid the bypass surgery his doctors recommend), but his recovery is slow and not aided by his eating habits or his family. Nelson has been stealing from the Toyota dealership he manages (and which Janice owns) to feed a cocaine habit, and when finally confronted he reluctantly enters drug rehabilitation, and Rabbit has to return to the showroom floor. The Japanese soon take away the Toyota agency, and when Janice starts working nights on a real estate license, the drifting Rabbit ends up sleeping with his daughter-in-law, Pru. Janice finds out about the episode, and Rabbit runs again—as he did in the first volume of the tetralogy—back to Florida.

(The entire section is 435 words.)