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Book summary and reviews of Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum

Rabbits for Food

by Binnie Kirshenbaum

  • Critics' Opinion:
  • Readers' Opinion:
  •  Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
  • May 2019
    384 pages
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About this book

Book Summary

Master of razor-edged literary humor Binnie Kirshenbaum returns with her first novel in a decade, a devastating, laugh-out-loud funny story of a writer's slide into depression and institutionalization.

It's New Year's Eve, the holiday of forced fellowship, mandatory fun, and paper hats. While dining out with her husband and their friends, Kirshenbaum's protagonist—an acerbic, mordantly witty, and clinically depressed writer—fully unravels. Her breakdown lands her in the psych ward of a prestigious New York hospital, where she refuses all modes of recommended treatment. Instead, she passes the time chronicling the lives of her fellow "lunatics" and writing a novel about what brought her there. Her story is a hilarious and harrowing deep dive into the disordered mind of a woman who sees the world all too clearly.

Propelled by stand-up comic timing and rife with pinpoint insights, Kirshenbaum examines what it means to be unloved and loved, to succeed and fail, to be at once impervious and raw. Rabbits for Food shows how art can lead us out of—or into—the depths of disconsolate loneliness and piercing grief. A bravura literary performance from one of our most witty and indispensable writers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
"A black comedy about Bunny, a tactless and less-than-successful New York City writer who winds up in a mental hospital on New Year's Eve 2008, after a restaurant meal with pretentious friends ends with her stabbing herself in the thigh with a fork. Flashbacks and creative writing prompts give glimpses into Bunny's past – growing up as a slighted middle child, losing her best friend and a beloved cat, her long history with psychiatrists and medication for depression, etc. – in both the first and the third person.

Scenes in the mental hospital introduce a quirky cast of secondary characters and a byzantine set of rules about what's allowed and what's not. Bunny's sarcastic voice is a draw, and the writing is vivid and often funny. However, the book is so dark that I suspect many will struggle to sympathize with its unlikable characters. Those particularly interested in an inside look at mental institutions may still want to read it." - Rebecca Foster


Other Reviews
"Comparisons to One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest are obvious and warranted, but Kirshenbaum's dazzling novel stands on its own as a crushing work of immense heart." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Kirshenbaum is a remarkable writer of fiercely observed fiction and a bleak, stark wit; her latest novel is as moving as it is funny, and that—truly—is saying something." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Binnie Kirshenbaum has hit her considerable stride in Rabbits for Food. This novel is compulsive reading; it's wonderfully paced, explosively funny and witty, and very, very wise about many grave things—but mostly about merely being human." - Richard Ford

"Psychiatric dayroom dark and just as funny, Rabbits for Food breaks down the mental breakdown into disquieting bite-sized pieces. It's fast-paced and turbulent, but beautifully complex, and the details are stunning. So chew slowly—this is one you'll want to savor." - Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout

"Brilliant insight and gleaming prose light up this report from the darkest interior, where Binnie Kirshenbaum's acerbic, grieving, all-too clear-sighted protagonist has become imprisoned by despair...Kirshenbaum conducts us on the journey with steady authorial nerves, high-wire insouciance, quicksilver wit, and limitless compassion." - Deborah Eisenberg, author of Your Duck Is My Duck

"The female narrator I've been waiting for...Binnie Kirshenbaum, the great novelist of female neurosis, has given us, in Rabbits for Food, the only story that really matters—a troubled soul deciding if life is worth living or not." - Darcey Steinke, author of Flash Count Diary

"Every now and then you're lucky enough to read a book that declares its own authority in a straightforward and unapologetic way. Rabbits for Food is that kind of book—haunted, astringent, and grimly funny, it explores without a grain of sentimentality or exaggeration the sort of crisis that any of us might fall prey to." - Christopher Sorrentino, author of The Fugitives

"Cutting to the bone, Kirshenbaum allows no sentimentality in this  bracing novel. Rabbits for Food is stark in its descriptions, beautifully written, weirdly funny, and engrossing. I was riveted." - Lynne Tillman, author of Men and Apparitions

"Binnie Kirshenbaum is an unflinching teller of truths. She's also sublimely funny. Rabbits for Food shows this immensely gifted writer at the height of her powers. It's a pitch perfect account of what it means to descend into madness and belongs on the same shelf as Fitzgerald's The Crack Up." - Jenny Offill

"A joy-giving and hilarious letter from the realm of despair. Also, somehow, a gentle love story. Marvelous and beautiful." - Rivka Galchen

"Funny, tender and heartbreaking, often in the same line, Rabbits for Food is a remarkable examination of the fault lines that run through us all. Wit and anger jostle for space with constant intelligence and subversiveness." - Tash Aw

This information about Rabbits for Food was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Binnie Kirshenbaum

Binnie Kirshenbaum is the author of the story collection History on a Personal Note and six novels, including On Mermaid Avenue, Hester Among the Ruins, An Almost Perfect Moment, and The Scenic Route. Her novels have been chosen as Notable Books of the Year by The Chicago Tribune, NPR, TIME, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post. Her work has been translated into seven languages.

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