Kirshenbaum doesn’t trivialize mental breakdown. She makes Bunny’s debilitation raw and worrying, and not without its insights. Despite unnecessary repetitions and overexplication, along with odd jumps in chronology, the story initially moves right along ... Humor leaks out through the gloom. Kirshenbaum’s best when she’s unpredictable. But the book gradually settles into a familiar genre, an update on what it’s like in the 'zoo' — Jonathan Winters’s term for psychiatric institutions.
Yes, this is going to be a wounding narrative (rabbits are being eaten, after all), but it’s also wickedly astute and hilariously funny ... Ending up in a mental institution for 19 days, Bunny struggles to survive. And this, dear readers, wraps up our description of plot and commences our discussion of why you should read this wonderful book anyway. For starters, Kirshenbaum’s a terrific tour guide through the institution, where Bunny’s not allowed pencils, nail clippers, or laptops, but can wear blue slipper socks ... If you are going to enter the heart of darkness, you might as well enjoy it with Kirshenbaum’s fierce, funny, writing ... [a] wise, brutally compassionate novel.
Comparisons to Kesey’s classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are unavoidable., but not simply because of the easy comparisons with the settings ... One of the remarkable achievements of Rabbits for Food is how Kirshenbaum manages to be clever in the midst of overwhelming despair. Because of her wit, the patently dour subject is not depressing; there is a great deal of humor, compassion, and sensitivity for the material. Readers will quickly commit to this extraordinary novel. Laser-sharp prose, compelling observations, and an engaging, sympathetic central figure conspire to make it a page-turner. Rabbits for Food is an impressive achievement. It should be read as soon as possible.
In her first novel in a decade, Kirshenbaum reclaims her scepter as a shrewdly lacerating comedic writer, joining Sylvia Plath, Ken Kesey, Will Self, Ned Vizzini, Siri Hustvedt, and others in writing darkly funny and incisive fiction about life in a psychiatric hospital ward ... a veritable primer on depression.
Bunny is so sardonic as to be completely unsympathetic, but this is exactly what makes her such an intriguing and complex character ... Kirshenbaum has excelled at capturing one woman’s disturbing mental illness and the daily struggles to cope with survival even in a setting that supposedly offers support and rehabilitation. Drawing parallels to Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest comes easily because of the similar setting and a cast of characters supporting the main character. Recommended.
Kirshenbaum breaks up this restrained narrative with prompts from Bunny’s therapeutic writing workshop, revealing a more complete and sometimes contradictory picture of a woman who’s struggling to rationalize what’s happened to her ... This structure of interruption and doubling back—with some passages reproduced almost identically, though from a different perspective—is disorienting but appropriate ... In treating [Bunny's] circumstances as fiction, [she] regains some of the autonomy [she's] lost.
...a tour de force ... a remarkable achievement that expertly blends pathos and humor ... Kirshenbaum sprinkles in Bunny’s brilliantly written and revelatory responses to the writing prompts given in the psych ward’s creative writing class ... 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.
A writer experiences a breakdown and ends up hospitalized; against all odds, hilarity ensues ... Kirshenbaum’s prose is lean and her timing is impeccable ... 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.