When God Was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman (2011, Headline Publishing Group)
As the title suggests, there’s more than just a little bit of quirkiness about this story. It’s in the writing style – fluid and lyrical and beautifully descriptive at times, terse and blasting with emotion at others; it’s in the voice of the main character, Elly, as she grows from a child into adulthood. It’s definitely in the plotline – but if you think you can’t stand it any longer (even in the early going), bear with it, and see it through to the end. The story is ultimately very rewarding… and it may even bring a tear or two to your eye.
As the dust jacket blurb states, “it’s a book about love in all its forms.” That’s for sure. The pivot point of the plot happens in the first couple of chapters, and I refuse to spoil things for potential readers – let’s just say it’s a doozy, and it colours every event in the book thereafter. It governs all of Elly’s future choices (love, friendships, career), and it permanently binds her to her brother, Joe, despite their already extraordinarily close relationship. Irrevocably shaped by The Event and Elly’s meeting with Jenny Penny, a strange, troubled girl who would become Elly’s lifelong friend and confidante, Elly struggles to maintain an even keel in her world, which is populated with her extremely loving but really wacky parents; her lesbian aunt Nancy; Ginger and Arthur, a couple of weird and very talented permanent houseguests; her brother Joe and his lover Charlie; and – oh yeah – a pet rabbit named God. Yeah, I know, it sounds so very odd. It is odd. It’s so odd it may be off-putting to some readers. There’s a kidnapping and a murder and a ceaseless, mind-blowing (and maybe eventually mind-numbing) series of trauma and drama, and then Winman throws the whole 9/11 thing in, and it gets even more bizarre. But somehow, out of all the chaos, she allows Elly to receive something akin to closure and I was seriously left shaking my head in wonder at how Winman drew it all together. It’s a wildly interesting read, but not everyone’s cup of tea, I figure.