It’s New Year’s Eve. While dining out with her husband and their friends, Kirshenbaum’s protagonist—a 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.
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.