[There are] many bold moves in Gunty’s dense, prismatic and often mesmerizing debut, a novel of impressive scope and specificity that falters mostly when it works too hard to wedge its storytelling into some broader notion of Big Ideas ... The Rabbit Hutch smartly reframes the depressing clichés of a vulnerable teenager and an older authority figure, in part by making them each so constantly aware of the roles they’re playing. One of the pleasures of the narrative is the way it luxuriates in language, all the rhythms and repetitions and seashell whorls of meaning to be extracted from the dull casings of everyday life. Gunty’s writing is so rich with texture and subtext it can sometimes tip over into the too-muchness of a decadent meal or a Paul Thomas Anderson film. As with many new novelists, and a lot of veteran ones too, her longer monologues tend to come off less like the cadences of ordinary speech than the workshopped thoughts of a star student ... But she also has a way of pressing her thumb on the frailty and absurdity of being a person in the world; all the soft, secret needs and strange intimacies. The book’s best sentences — and there are heaps to choose from — ping with that recognition, even in the ordinary details ... The Rabbit Hutch’s vibrant, messy sprawl can seem that way too, but its excesses also feel generous: defiant in the face of death, metaphysical exits or whatever comes next.
The aspect of unreality—albeit carefully constructed unreality—is central to Ms. Gunty’s presentation of American malaise, which occupies an unstable realm between portraiture and allegory. It is never altogether clear whether her characters are in the grip of some transformative religious awakening or simply suffering from untreated mental illness. The ambiguity is the source of this novel’s remarkable nervous energy. A feeling of genuine crisis—unrooted but ferociously tangible—propels the narrative through its many twists to the catharsis of its bizarre ending ... The tension is not uniformly unflagging. An extended middle section recounting Blandine’s doomed love affair with her high-school music teacher is out of proportion in both length and tone, seeming to belong to a more realistic coming-of-age debut. But this does little to offset the unnerving vision and conviction of the most promising first novel I’ve read this year.
Hildegard of Bingen had little to say about human connectivity, being more concerned with the divine. But the spirit of the 12th-century mystic runs through The Rabbit Hutch, uniting and celebrating the disparate misfit residents of the low-rent apartment complex of the same name in Tess Gunty’s transcendent debut novel ... In this compelling and startlingly beautiful book, the Rabbit Hutch, with its grinding poverty and 'walls so thin you can hear everyone’s lives progress like radio plays,' is as much a character as its residents ... Gunty weaves these stories together with skill and subtlety. The details of Blandine’s traumatic history, for example, are slipped in via a very few well-chosen details.
Tess Gunty’s evocative way with words ... Gunty treats The Rabbit Hutch like a wall of glass cages at a pet store, and we readers are voyeuristic shoppers peering in. Unlike in the real world, we see every person’s dark, soft, and vulnerable parts, the things they keep hidden from everyone—perhaps even themselves. This sense of eerie omnipresence permeates the entire book ... The question The Rabbit Hutch attempts to answer is, what actually defines a life ... The characters in The Rabbit Hutch are all half-baked—not in the sense that they’re not fully fleshed-out characters, but that, like us, they’re humans rotating on this Earth for the first time, experiencing every emotion with violent force. They struggle, they make mistakes, they join communities, they feel unbearably lonely. This, Gunty muses, is the full spectrum of being human. The Rabbit Hutch is absurd, but if you scratch away the layers of surrealism and satire, you find Gunty’s practical insight into the meaning of life. It’s complicated, hard as hell, and yet beautiful.
... a tour de force ... Gunty intimately understands that settings can be characters in and of themselves, and in this, the novel excels; The Rabbit Hutch is as full of character as the cast ... It’s fitting that the story revolves around an apartment building because much of this novel’s reading experience is like glimpsing into the lives of others through window panes. Gunty moves deftly and expertly between alternating perspectives, never lingering too long on any character. This makes for a suspenseful reading experience ... One of The Rabbit Hutch‘s greatest strengths is how unapologetically strange it is. Gunty leans into the peculiar not just with her cast of characters but also with the novel’s format. Not only is the story told from multiple perspectives, but it’s also told in varying tenses and mediums, from newspaper clippings to interview transcripts to stark black-and-white drawings. Gunty masters each mode of communication with deft precision and an acute sense of observation. The only time the prose falters is when Gunty’s high-calibre writing pushes the suspension of disbelief perilously close to its limits — it’s difficult to imagine any 18-year-old coming close to the lyricism Blandine waxes in the novel ... should be bleak, considering this subject matter, but the story is buoyed by the messiness and complexity of the human experience in all its absurdity. At its core, Gunty’s story is about trying to live in a declining landscape rife with alienation, about wanting to transcend the mundane and find meaning in a life that has taken more than it has given.
A character-driven marvel ... Gunty does a fine job planting plenty of disturbing seeds throughout her narrative ... Each character in The Rabbit Hutch must deal with sin and guilt and transference. But Gunty also pushes deeply into the existence, and the ethics, of evil ... As Gunty builds to an apex of action, she plays with the formats of her narrative ... Gunty wants us to question not just what we owe one another in moments of crisis, but also how we create crises in our daily lives ... This is fiction that feels completely new while also pulling together dark impulses and base instincts that are familiar to every one of us. Gunty is doing a lot, and it’s all working. The Rabbit Hutch is a singular and piercing story.
Seriously impressive ... Thrillingly blends the vivid realism and comic experimentalism so beloved of American fiction. The writing is incandescent, the range of styles and voices remarkable ... Fun and funny ... I found myself cackling and covering the book’s pages with exclamation marks as I read ... The novel leaps with great confidence across a multitude of styles ... There’s so much dazzling stuff here, it can be hard to know where to look. And, in truth, the novel succumbs a little to its byzantine structure and sentimentality. Yet what lingers is something simple: the sparkling interiority of its characters. Gunty didn’t need so many fireworks to make such a stellar arrival as a new writer.
The Rabbit Hutch complex provides a metaphor for the narrative architecture of Tess Gunty’s original and incisive debut ... Blandine provides devastating, funny commentary on everything from literature and the environment to social media, gendered power dynamics and late capitalism ... This is an important American novel, a portrait of a dying city and, by extension, a dying system. Its propulsive power is not only in its insight and wit, but in the story of this ethereal girl who has been brutalised by a system over and over again and yet keeps trying to resolve and save it. She is so vibrantly alive and awake that when I finished this book, I wanted to feel that. I wanted to walk outside. I wanted what is real. I wanted to wake up. Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch is breathtaking, compassionate and spectacular.
Tess Gunty’s debut novel propels itself by setting up conflicts between people who are already on edge, exhausted, and afraid, and lets you see where the pieces will fall long before it topples them over ... Gunty has a talent for short descriptions...and this extends to her characters as well: often with one offhand trait, you get the sense of exactly who someone is ... Blandine in particular feels like the subject of other peoples’ attention: fascinating in their chapters, but adrift and preoccupied in her own. The violence that’s teased only exacerbates this problem. Blandine is sickly and odd, but desirable to everyone around her until she expresses a need or frustration ... At its end, and at select few moments throughout, The Rabbit Hutch relaxes this isolation and lets its characters relax into each other. In those moments, the narrative shines like a bag of glow sticks: industrial, dazzling, the sum of its disconnected parts.
Whatever happens next, you know that debut author Tess Gunty can nail an opening ... This is a novel that is almost over-blessed with ideas. Gunty doesn’t quite balance the pieces of her story – she has a winning impulse for digression, but she also seems anxious that you might forget about Blandine, and so never quite settles into her sidebars. The insistent nudges back to the main arc stop her novel from creating the sense of invisible clockwork that would make it perfectly satisfying ... At its best, though, The Rabbit Hutch balances the banal and the ecstatic in a way that made me think of prime David Foster Wallace. It’s a story of love, told without sentimentality; a story of cruelty, told without gratuitousness. Gunty is a captivating writer, and if she learns to trust her own talent, whatever comes next will be even better.
The many elements at play here—horror, mysticism, beauty and humor—set us up for the bizarre, enticing story to come ... Though these characters might sound as if they belong in a black comedy, Gunty clearly does not see them that way. Instead, she showers her characters with deep compassion and empathy ... There is nothing snarky about Gunty’s tone, and even if she is unafraid to experiment ... Gunty also extends Vacca Vale a similar grace as her characters. This is not the flyover, Trumpian wasteland dismissed in the media, but a place with its own rich identity ... Not all aspects of the characters ring entirely true, and their sprawling monologues can feel authorially crafted. The rabbit imagery can also feel overused. But due to Gunty’s writerly confidence, it’s easy to justify these moments as a conscious choice in style. This is a novel for both the hopeless and hopeful, and though Gunty does not spare us from the violence of humanity, she understands that it does not define us exclusively. As a writer, Gunty is both deft and versatile. Though she may be unknown to most of her readers, The Rabbit Hutch already feels like something only Tess Gunty could write.
Remarkable ... The brilliantly imaginative novel begins on an absurdist note before settling down to an offbeat, slightly skewed realism. Gunty is a wonderful writer, a master of the artful phrase ... Best of all, her fully realized characters come alive on the page, capturing the reader and not letting go.
Weirdly absorbing ... The story’s mystery and beauty are driven by Blandine’s narrative...but Gunty also deftly weaves in the stories of the other residents. Each character is plagued by loneliness, secrets, and unfulfilled aspirations that the novel reveals through masterly prose and imaginative depictions ... A woefully beautiful tale of a community striving for rebirth and redemption; highly recommended.
As Gunty introduces each new voice, she makes storytelling seem like the most fun a person can have. She draws us along with rapturous glee while layering her symbolism so thick that the story should, by all rights, drown in it. But The Rabbit Hutch never loses focus thanks to Blandine, who has a kind of literary superpower: She's aware of her place in the story, points out Gunty's metaphors, arches a brow at the symbols and has something to say about all of it.
... takes place over the course of just a few days, culminating in an explosive act of violence that the narrative hints at from the beginning but is so intense that Gunty chooses to illustrate it --- literally, with black-and-white drawings that require readers to fill in the horrific blanks for themselves. For this kind of violence --- whether against people or animals, physical or emotional --- lurks behind closed doors all over Vacca Vale, and as shocking as the culminating violence might be, it’s not exactly surprising ... But Vacca Vale is still a complicated place, with hard-won sites of beauty and grace. Gunty effectively demonstrates how its residents square their disillusion with their hometown with their overwhelming desire to have a home at all, with their combination of skepticism and hope that the proposed developments might actually change their lives for the better. The Rabbit Hutch is at times funny, disturbing, bizarre and quietly beautiful. It closes with a moment that reminds readers that human connection and kindness can thrive despite the circumstances.
This will be a one-word review. Wow. That’s it. Thank you and goodnight. There are no other words that will adequately express my awe and wonder at the sheer mastery, originality, wit, humour, humanity and heartbreak of The Rabbit Hutch ... It is astonishing that someone can be so accomplished, polished and sharp as a writer, that they can write a book that is pitch perfect right down to the very last line. There are no words to describe how brilliant The Rabbit Hutch is. Which is why, as I stated, this is a one-word review.
The novel has a playful formal inventiveness ... Gunty pans swiftly from room to room, perspective to perspective, molding a story that—despite its chaotic variousness—is extremely suspenseful and culminates in a finale that will leave readers breathless. With sharp prose and startling imagery, the novel touches on subjects from environmental trauma to rampant consumerism to sexual power dynamics to mysticism to mental illness, all with an astonishing wisdom and imaginativeness ... This is indeed an American story—a striking and wise depiction of what it means to be awake and alive in a dying building, city, nation, and world. A stunning and original debut that is as smart as it is entertaining.