Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Rabbit Cake"

Annie Hartnett is a 2013 graduate of the MFA program at the University of Alabama, and was the 2013-2014 Writer-in-Residence for the Associates of the Boston Public Library. She currently teaches classes on the novel and the short story at Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston.

Hartnett applied the Page 69 Test to Rabbit Cake, her debut novel, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the entirety of Rabbit Cake? Well, there’s a lot of sex on this page, but I guess there’s sex through the book – the main character, Elvis, is only ten years old, but she’s investigating some missing pieces about her late mother’s life, and one of those is the affair her mother had. And I do like the humor on this page, and I think the humor here is representative of the book as a whole – it’s a sad book because it’s about grief, but you should laugh much more than you cry. Here’s the first section of page 69:
Late that night, I realized there was someone who could tell me if Mom had been having too much sex, or too little. I took Mom’s cellphone from its charger and went up to my room. I found him listed in her contacts under The Tongue Doctor, which she had called him when he’d been my speech therapist.

“Tell me from the start,” I demanded, after Mr. Oakes picked up. I tried to enunciate every word I said.
In the next section of page 69 (it jumps to another event) I am pleased to see that there is a sleepwalking event, which is a huge theme in the book. The mother dies on page 1 while swimming in her sleep, and the older sister is a sleepwalker as well. That’s what’s happening in the second half of this page, the older sister has just had a bad sleepwalking episode:
I didn’t mean to fall asleep after I hung up the phone, but I woke up to yelling from the kitchen. I went running downstairs to find Dad holding Lizzie by the waist.

She had oven-mitts on both of her hands, and she appeared to be trying to climb into the oven.

“Turn the stove on ,” Dad yelled. All four gas burners were on full-blaze. The oven was set to 450 degrees. There was so much in the kitchen Lizzie could hurt herself with: knives, household cleaners, the oven.

I saw then that the rabbit cake pan was out on the counter, and Lizzie had cracked a half a dozen eggs inside. She had also set the table with the good china, and somehow she hadn’t broken one plate.

“Leave it,” Dad said, when I started cleaning up. “She should see it tomorrow.”
Another thing I like on page 69 is the father’s attempts to parent at this stage: he is completely overwhelmed after he loses his wife, but by page 69 he is a little less clueless. As the book goes on, he learns how to be a better parent without the leadership of his wife.

So overall – I’d say that the page 69 test works pretty darn well for Rabbit Cake.
Visit Annie Hartnett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue