August 2022 Indie Next List
“The Rabbit Hutch is an inventive and lyrical tale of Midwestern decay, environmental destruction, and toxic masculinity. John Brandon meets Lauren Groff with the occasional experimental aside. An ambitious and assured debut.”
— Matt Stowe, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
The Rabbit Hutch is a stunning debut novel about four teenagers—recently aged out of the state foster-care system—living together in an apartment building in the post-industrial Midwest, exploring the quest for transcendence and the desire for love.
“Gunty writes with a keen, sensitive eye about all manner of intimacies—the kind we build with other people, and the kind we cultivate around ourselves and our tenuous, private aspirations.”—Raven Leilani, best-selling, award-winning author of Luster
The automobile industry has abandoned Vacca Vale, Indiana, leaving the residents behind, too. In a run-down apartment building on the edge of town, commonly known as the Rabbit Hutch, a number of people now reside quietly, looking for ways to live in a dying city. Apartment C2 is lonely and detached. C6 is aging and stuck. C8 harbors an extraordinary fear. But C4 is of particular interest.
Here live four teenagers who have recently aged out of the state foster-care system: three boys and one girl, Blandine, who The Rabbit Hutch centers around. Hauntingly beautiful and unnervingly bright, Blandine is plagued by the structures, people, and places that not only failed her but actively harmed her. Now all Blandine wants is an escape, a true bodily escape like the mystics describe in the books she reads.
Set across one week and culminating in a shocking act of violence, The Rabbit Hutch chronicles a town on the brink, desperate for rebirth. How far will its residents—especially Blandine—go to achieve it? Does one person’s gain always come at another’s expense? Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch is a gorgeous and provocative tale of loneliness and community, entrapment and freedom. It announces a major new voice in American fiction, one bristling with intelligence and vulnerability.
About the Author
TESS GUNTY earned an MFA in creative writing from NYU, where she was a Lillian Vernon Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Joyland, Los Angeles Review of Books, No Tokens, Flash, and elsewhere. She was raised in South Bend, Indiana, and lives in Los Angeles.
“Mesmerizing . . . A novel of impressive scope and specificity . . . One of the pleasures of the narrative is the way it luxuriates in language, all the rhythms and repetitions and seashell whorls of meaning to be extracted from the dull casings of everyday life. . . . [Gunty] also has a way of pressing her thumb on the frailty and absurdity of being a person in the world; all the soft, secret needs and strange intimacies. The book’s best sentences — and there are heaps to choose from — ping with that recognition, even in the ordinary details.”—Leah Greenblatt, The New York Times Book Review
“The most promising first novel I’ve read this year . . . A feeling of genuine crisis . . . propels the narrative through its many twists to the catharsis of its bizarre ending.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“An astonishing portrait . . . Gunty delves into the stories of Blandine’s neighbors, brilliantly and achingly charting the range of their experiences. . . . It all ties together, achieving this first novelist’s maximalist ambitions and making powerful use of language along the way. Readers will be breathless.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“Riveting . . . The Rabbit Hutch balances the banal and the ecstatic in a way that made me think of prime David Foster Wallace. It’s a story of love, told without sentimentality; a story of cruelty, told without gratuitousness. Gunty is a captivating writer.”—Sarah Ditum, The Guardian
“As surreal as it is genius . . . Spanning one week, the novel culminates in a shocking and violent climax that will stay with your long after you turn the last page.”—Kirby Beaton, BuzzFeed
“[A] breathtaking novel . . . Your allegiances will shift and shift again as the plot writhes toward a shocking, but inevitable, conclusion.”—Good Housekeeping, “25 New Summer Books to Add to Your 2022 Reading List”
“A first novel of uncommon power . . . A character-driven marvel . . . This is fiction that feels completely new while also pulling together dark impulses and base instincts that are familiar to every one of us. Gunty is doing a lot, and it’s all working. The Rabbit Hutch is a singular and piercing story.”—Heather Scott Partington, Alta
“Inventive, heartbreaking and acutely funny.”—Hephzibah Anderson, The Guardian
“Think Jennifer Egan’s Look at Me and Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son . . . The language of The Rabbit Hutch is so spectacularly clear. . . . [I did] not want to put down The Rabbit Hutch and leave these characters.”—Miwa Messer, B&N’s Poured Over
“Tess Gunty [has an] evocative way with words . . . Gunty treats The Rabbit Hutch like a wall of glass cages at a pet store and we readers are voyeuristic shoppers peering in. . . . If you scratch away the layers of surrealism and satire, you find Gunty’s practical insight into the meaning of life. It’s complicated, hard as hell, and yet beautiful. At its core, The Rabbit Hutch asks us to question what it means to be alive, especially in the age of the internet.”—Oprah Daily
“The Rabbit Hutch is an immersive story that is simultaneously disquieting, thrilling, and deeply moving.”—Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
“An ambitious debut . . . With hints of Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers) and Ali Smith (How to Be Both), Gunty’s writing is richly detailed and poignant.”—Sarah Stiefvater, PureWow
“Masterly prose and imaginative depictions . . . Gunty’s first novel is a weirdly absorbing read that captures the heart and soul of a Rust Belt town. . . . A woefully beautiful tale of a community striving for rebirth and redemption; highly recommended.”—Faye A. Chadwell, Library Journal (starred review)
“As Gunty introduces each new voice, she makes storytelling seem like the most fun a person can have. She draws us along with rapturous glee while layering her symbolism so thick that the story should, by all rights, drown in it. But The Rabbit Hutch never loses focus thanks to Blandine, who has a kind of literary superpower: She’s aware of her place in the story, points out Gunty’s metaphors, arches a brow at the symbols and has something to say about all of it. . . . Redemption is possible, and Gunty’s novel consecrates this noble search.”—Cat Acree, BookPage (starred review)
“Gunty writes with such compassion for her characters as they build their lives and assert their agency in a country that utterly disregards them, and in particular Blandine’s bright, fierce curiosity for the world kept me moving through the story; she’s a warrior, an intellectual force, a young woman who refuses to be disempowered. This is a skillfully told, beautiful, human story.”—Corinne Segal, Literary Hub, “35 Novels You Need to Read This Summer”
“A powerful and brutal book, brimming with dark and funny lines . . . Gunty’s true subject, though, is a land of loneliness, squandered potential and exploitation that feels uniquely American — and also the human interconnections and strokes of luck that can help us survive it.”—Dorany Pineda, Los Angeles Times
“This seriously impressive debut novel — about the inhabitants of a low-rent apartment block in small-town Indiana — thrillingly blends the vivid realism and comic experimentalism so beloved of American fiction. The writing is incandescent, the range of styles and voices remarkable. . . . There’s so much dazzling stuff here, it can be hard to know where to look. . . . What lingers is something simple: the sparkling interiority of its characters.”—Robert Collins, The Sunday Times (London)
“Throughout, tension is mixed with hilarity, heartbreak with hope. It all makes for a gripping, memorable debut full of peculiar wonders.”—The Mail on Sunday (London), “The Very Hottest Summer Reads”
“One of the most talked about debuts of the year so far, Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch feels like a cult classic in the making.”—i-D
“Tess Gunty’s debut novel propels itself by setting up conflicts between people who are already on edge, exhausted, and afraid, and lets you see where the pieces will fall long before it topples them over. . . . The narrative shines like a bag of glow sticks: industrial, dazzling, the sum of its disconnected parts.”—Emily Price, Paste
“The Rabbit Hutch follows a series of characters endowed with idiosyncrasies as bizarre as they are fascinating. . . . As with the best polyphonic novels, the town of Vacca Vale becomes a character in and of itself—its deterioration takes turns mirroring or standing in sharp contrast to the psychologies of Gunty’s characters.”— Annabel Graham, Bomb
“Here is something new, a first novel with the wisdom and tenderness of a masterwork; an unflinching look at the down and out that continues to rise and rise. The Rabbit Hutch is addictive, mesmerizing and unforgettable.”—Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
“Just when everything seemed designed for a brief moment of utility before its planned obsolescence, here comes The Rabbit Hutch, a profoundly wise, wildly inventive, deeply moving work of art whose seemingly infinite offerings will remain with you long after you finish it. Each page of this novel contains a novel, a world.”—Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated
“In The Rabbit Hutch, Gunty writes with a keen, sensitive eye about all manner of intimacies—the kind we build with other people, and the kind we cultivate around ourselves and our tenuous, private aspirations.”—Raven Leilani, author of Luster
“Tess Gunty is a masterful talent with a remarkable eye for the poetic, the poignant, and the absurdly sublime. The Rabbit Hutch unspools the story of Blandine Watkins and other inhabitants of a rundown building on the edge of the once bustling Vacca Vale, Indiana. A brutal and beautiful novel that both delights and devastates with its unflinching depiction of Rust Belt decline, Gunty’s debut is a tour de force that’s sure to top this year’s best-of lists.”—Lauren Wilkinson, author of American Spy
“The Rabbit Hutch aches, bleeds, and even scars but it also forgives with laughter, with insight, and finally, through an act of generational independence that remains this novel’s greatest accomplishment, with an act of rescue, rescue of narrative, rescue from ritual, rescue of heart, the rescue of tomorrow.”—Mark Z. Danielewski, author of House of Leaves
“Philosophical, and earthy, and tender and also simply very fun to read—Tess Gunty is a distinctive talent, with a generous and gently brilliant mind.”—Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch
“Remarkable . . . Brilliantly imaginative . . . Gunty is a wonderful writer, a master of the artful phrase. . . . Best of all, her fully realized characters come alive on the page, capturing the reader and not letting go.”—Michael Cart, Booklist (starred review)
“Darkly funny, surprising, and mesmerizing . . . A stunning and original debut that is as smart as it is entertaining . . . Gunty pans swiftly from room to room, perspective to perspective, molding a story that . . . is extremely suspenseful and culminates in a finale that will leave readers breathless. With sharp prose and startling imagery, the novel touches on subjects from environmental trauma to rampant consumerism to sexual power dynamics to mysticism to mental illness, all with an astonishing wisdom and imaginativeness. . . . A striking and wise depiction of what it means to be awake and alive in a dying building, city, nation, and world.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)