In this sequel to Rabbit, Run, John Updike resumes the spiritual quest of his anxious Everyman, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Ten years have passed; the impulsive former athlete has become a paunchy thirty-six-year-old conservative, and Eisenhower’s becalmed America has become 1969’s lurid turmoil of technology, fantasy, drugs, and violence. Rabbit is abandoned by his family, his home invaded by a runaway and a radical, his past reduced to a ruined inner landscape; still he clings to semblances of decency and responsibility, and yearns to belong and to believe. (www.goodreads.com)
Rabbit Redux wasn't as good a novel as Rabbit, Run was, but I wasn't completely bad either. I've enjoyed catching up with Harry Angstrom again, learning how his life has turned out after his shenanagans in the first novel. Seeing that he's still together with Janice (which I unconsciously give the same look and voice as the Janice from Friends) and their raising Nelson together. They start out being a fairly normal unhappy married couple, living together but next to each other.
The novel shanges abdruptly when Harry's father hints at the possibility that Janice is seeing someone else. He confronts her and she confesses. She intimately wants him to fight for her but he lets her go to live with her lover. He and their son stay in their home and he lives his life further without really thinking about it, without realising life is passing him by and he's not doing anything worth while.
Then, through a co-worker, a young girl comes to live with him. A troubled teen who's only way of surviving in life is to provide sexual acts. Harry is declining at first, not really interested in such a young body and also afraid of some conspiracy to blackmail him. As time goes by they do become sexual partners, but when she brings in a fugitive, Skeeter, to harbour for a few days, things begin to go rapidly downhill.
Jill is being introduced to drugs again and spends more and more time high or wanting to get high. Harry and Skeeter, a black man who's been in Vietnam and who thinks he's the black Jesus come to rescue us all from temptation and to learn the 'Chucks' of the world that you don't mess with the black man. He and Harry read stories to each other while they're high on marihuana, which changes the way Harry thinks.
In the meantime his neighbourhood is not happy with him giving shelter to a black man, which in the end comes to a menacing event.
Harry seems to me to be a person who doesn't live life, but let's other people live it for him. He never makes choices but leaves them to others . His wife leaving him, the girl being harboured with him through his co-worker, Skeeter living with him because of the girl, even small things like him sleeping with the mother of Nelson's best friend is not because he wants to, but because she wants to.
He's living the life someone else is providing him, never doing anything to set things to his mind, just wandering through.
It was very much the same thing in Rabbit, Run. Although he's ten years older, and he's not running this time, he's running away from everything just by doing nothing. Time passes him by and he stands still.
John Updike does a hell of a job to write a story about a man I truly dislike and making it so that I'm inclined to read further until the end. To be able to accomplish that, is very rare indeed. Thumbs up, I'd say.
Personal score: 3,5 stars