History: This is the third in the Rabbit series. Published in 1981,it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1982.
Plot: This novel picks up the story begun in Updike's Rabbit Run (1961) and continued in Rabbit Redux (1971), of Harry Angstrom, Rabbit, in his mid-forties in the late 1970's. He is the Sales Manager and part owner of Springer Motors Toyota, in the fictional town of Brewer, PA. Harry is at the lot when two young people come in looking for a car. Harry takes them for a test drive and gets the notion that the girl may be his daughter. At home, there is great tension because Nelson has written that he is coming home from school. A few days later her comes home. A few days later, Nelson takes out the car, and has a small accident occurred and the Toyota has been scraped on the side.
Nelson gets married to Pru—she is pregnant. Planning for a wedding begins immediately, and goes off as planned. Then, as Pru and Nelson are they are leaving a party one night, Pru falls on the stairs and breaks an arm. Pru gives birth to a little girl not long after the accident.
Rabbit buys a few thousand dollars of gold Krugerrands, which he sells making a nice profit. They go to the Caribbean with their friends. One night At dinner someone suggests they swap wives night-by-night. Harry is picked by Thelma, much to his disappointment. He is really hot for Cindy Murkett, but that will have to be another night. Thelma actually is very fond of Harry—something he had been totally unaware of. She gives him a night of ardent love. The next morning they are awakened by people pounding at the door of their cabana. It seems that Harry and Janice have to return home immediately; Nelson has run away from home. At home, they get a postcard from Nelson. He is back at Kent State enrolling for the new semester.
Rabbit drives down to the farm country around Galilee and locates the farm where Ruth Byer, with whom he had an affair about 20 years ago, lives. She is the mother of the girl who appeared with Jamie Nunemacher in the showroom. Ruth swears to him that her daughter Annabelle is not his child.
Rabbit and Janice are in their new home. It is Super Bowl Sunday. Bessie and Pru have come over to see the new place and watch the game. While Janice is showing Bessie the upstairs, Pru finds Harry sitting in a wing chair in his den. She puts the new baby, his granddaughter, into his lap.
Review: The book’s most powerful scenes involve the ongoing battle between father and son, and Rabbit’s obsessive pursuit of a former lover who he suspects has been hiding from him for decades the birth of their child, now a grown daughter. Rabbit Angstrom is a vivid and convincing creation that Updike elaborates and enriches over almost five decades — a unique feat in American letters. He is the sum of his character — randy and somewhat avaricious, but principled — and his consciousness. Rabbit notices everything — he has Updike’s eye, which revels in the minutiae of life and finds resonance, even transcendence in the smallest detail.
Opening Line: “Running out of gas, Rabbit Angstrom thinks as he stands behind the summer dusty windows of the Springer Motors display room watching the traffic go by on Route 111, traffic somehow thin and scared compared to what it used to be.”
Closing Line: “Another nail in his coffin. His.”
Quotes: "The evening passes in a stale crackle of television and suppressed resentment…Ma Springer, having condescended to share with them at the kitchen table some lumpy mushroom soup Janice has warmed and the cold cuts slightly sweaty....."