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Rabbit Cake

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This is a darkly comic novel about a young girl named Elvis trying to figure out her place in a world without her mother. Twelve-year-old Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly eighteen months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know—like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother's silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother's death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama.

338 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 7, 2017

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Annie Hartnett

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,577 reviews
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,742 reviews2,268 followers
March 25, 2022

Elvis Babbitt shares a birthday with the King of Rock ‘n' Roll, which is why her mother insisted they name their second daughter Elvis. On her tenth birthday, her Mom burned the rabbit cake, and warns Elvis that this might be an unpleasant year for her. Rabbits are an omen of good luck, and her mother liked to celebrate new beginnings with a bit of good luck – but a burnt rabbit…that might not be so lucky. Omens and belief in such things as spiritual rebirth and psychics might seem out of character for a woman like her mother, but nobody makes perfect sense all the time.

Her sister Lizzie is a sleepwalker, like their Mom, but their Mom is also a sleepswimmer. Elvis and Lizzie’s Mom swims in her sleep one night and then disappears. It’s months later when they find her caught in a dam.

Elvis is the storyteller here, her sweetly naïve voice mixed with grief, confusion and frustration. So many questions she has, each one a little heartbreaking, almost all without answers. Thus there’s a bit of melancholy that permeates this, which seems to surround Elvis - much like Pigpen always seems surrounded by his own personal cloud of dust - but there are also moments which are purely sweet and good, and even occasionally comical in this charming debut novel.

They each wear their grief in different ways, Lizzie’s sleepwalking worsens, becomes more dangerous than before, the father brings home a bird that talks in a voice that sounds just like their mother, Elvis delves into what she views as the mystery surrounding her mother’s death. Even their dog is caught up in the family’s grieving. Their grieving process takes this quirky family and their friends on some messy, if occasionally funny, adventures. This isn’t really a sad or mournful story, but a story of the process of finding a way to their new “normal” and the light that shines, showing them a way to hope, and life on the other side of sorrow.

Published: 07 Mar 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Tin House Books
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,736 reviews14.1k followers
February 7, 2017
On their birthdays their mom would make them rabbit cakes from a special rabbit mold. That Is when 11 year old Elvis and her sister, Lizzie, fifteen, still had a mom, before she drowned in what they were calling an accident. Elvis believes there is more to the story, and is trying very hard to keep her little family together. Things are not going so well though, her sister is sleep eating and her dad walks around wearing her mom's lipstick and articles of clothing.

Elvis is one of those child narrators that buries herself under your skin and entrench herself firmly into your heart. Her mom was working on a book about animals and Elvis volunteers at a zoo, trying to carry on her mom's legacy. She studies animal facts and the steps of grieving. This wonderful story has so much humor but also much sadness, though it is not handled in a melancholy fashion. Elvis, and her wonderful insights and actions keeps this from being maudlin, rather it is heartwarming story of the family who is left, trying to stay connected and find their way forward. A quirky story, with some unusual but well rounded characters.

Loved all the animal facts. For instance, did you know moles have queens and that there spines lengthen so they are easily identified? So many interesting facts, enjoyed reading about Elvis's time at the zoo and the wonderful zoo Vet who takes this intrepid young girl under his wing. Such a great story.

ARC from
Publisher Tin House books, release date, March 7th.
Profile Image for Sujoya (theoverbookedbibliophile).
428 reviews949 followers
March 25, 2022
Annie Hartnett’s debut novel follows the Alabama based Babbitt family - ten-year-old Elvis, her older sister fifteen-year-old Lizzie, their father Frank and their family dog Boomer as they come to terms with the death of the girls’ mother and Frank’s wife, Eva Rose Babbitt who died from drowning in the Chattahoochee river after sleepwalking into it.

“Mom always said we needed a cake to mark every new beginning, and whether it was a birthday or a first day of school or a new moon, rabbits mean good luck to a new start.”

Elvis’s mother always used to bake a cake in a rabbit mold to mark special occasions. Sadly on her tenth birthday, her mother accidentally burns the “rabbit cake” and soon after tragedy strikes. This devastating loss affects each member of the family and their grief manifests in different forms. Their father seems to withdraw from them, spending more time with his newly acquired pet parrot who coincidentally speaks in a voice similar to his late wife’s. Frank is also seen dressing up in Eva's clothes and makeup while at home. Lizzie’s sleepwalking disorder, inherited from her mother, seems to get worse and her behavior during her nocturnal sleepwalking episodes becomes increasingly destructive. She also has trouble in school leading to her being suspended. Elvis, obsessed with her mother’s death is unable to reconcile with the death being ruled “accidental” and maintains that there was more to it than everyone assumes. She has sessions with the school counselor who helps her map out a grief chart but her progress seems to be stalling on account of the dysfunctional dynamic on the home front. She is busy balancing her own needs, investigating her mother’s death and taking care of her sister whose behavior leads to a stint in a hospital for mentally disturbed children.

“Maybe my grief had turned abnormal, before the eighteen months were even up. I always felt as if I had swallowed something sharp, like a house key or a thumbtack, something causing a deep pain down in the pit of my stomach."

“Rabbit Cake” by Annie Hartnett is a beautifully written novel that revolves around themes of grief, mental illness, family and moving on-from the perspective of now twelve-year-old Elvis Babbett and covers the twenty months following the tragic night of Eva's death as the family members navigate through their grief, both as individuals and as a family. Elvis’s narrative is charming, smart, and honest and reflects her inquisitive nature, wisdom and innocence in the ways of the world. The author excels in voicing the thoughts and emotions of a ten/twelve-year-old child - her sorrow,her denial and her frustration with her family members and the other adults in her life are refreshingly honest, very real and never out of place. She is a child who misses her mother and this is expressed beautifully through flashbacks of Elvis’s memories of Eva throughout the narrative. When she enrolls in the volunteer program at the Serengeti Park Zoo, we bear witness to her utter devotion to animals, an interest she shared with her late mother. Her interactions with the zoo animals are full of compassion and curiosity and make for some heartwarming moments and the plethora of animal facts interspersed throughout the novel are truly interesting. The author, while dealing with the more serious issues of grief and mental illness with respect and sensitivity, manages to inject a healthy dose of humor and some truly funny moments throughout the narrative as well. Losing a loved one is never easy and each of us deals with grief in our very own way. There is no one-size-fits-all coping mechanism that applies universally to grappling with loss - a fact that the author honestly and sensitively depicts in this charming, sad yet hopeful and heartwarming novel. The writing is beautiful, the pace never falters and I liked how the story is wrapped up. I had a lump in my throat but a smile on my face by the end of the story.

“…… but I’d figured out by now that death never makes sense, no matter how someone dies: murder, accident, old age, cancer, suicide, you’re never ready to lose someone you love. I decided death will always feel unexplained; we will never be ready for it, and you just have to do the best you can with what you have left.”
Profile Image for Julie G .
883 reviews2,743 followers
March 16, 2023
This year, 2023, is the “Year of the Rabbit,” so I committed to adding twelve new “rabbit reads” in twelve months to my shelf of the same name.

I ordered a stack of rabbit-centered books (either in theme or title) and they arrived at our main library here at almost the exact same time. In less than a week, I had sent all but two of them back because they were awful. The more recent they were, the more awful.

But not this one. This one stayed.

It's almost shocking how much I loved this contemporary debut novel, and it reminded me a lot of my experience of house-hunting, in 2021. I had given my realtor a wish list, of what I was looking for in a property, and I informed her I was “holding firm to it,” but when we pulled up in front of this current house, I declared it “the winner,” and my realtor got snarky. She pulled out my list with great, dramatic flair, and proceeded to go down it, making a big point of letting me know that neither the house nor the property checked off ANY of my boxes. (I love my house so freaking much, and my realtor became my first snarky friend in this state).

The experience of reading this book felt much the same way: everything was wrong for me, here, as a reader. I loathe child narrators in adult fiction, especially a child narrator who is 10 but who has the Voice of a 43-year-old.

I also loathe absurd plot points, like the mother in this novel who dies while “sleep swimming” and a teenaged sister who casually commits misdemeanors and felonies (neither are plot spoilers).

I typically loathe a book that makes no apologies while demanding my suspension of disbelief.

But, what can I contribute, other than: Whatever, man.

The whole weird novel worked for me, worked for me from the first strange page to the last.

I think the author, Annie Hartnett, is some type of freak of nature, and I'm now invested in her crazy cause of flipping all current fiction on its ass.

I wasn't sure what someone from Texas would be like. I pictured a woman who rode sidesaddle, smoked a pipe, someone who sauntered instead of walked regular.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,727 reviews6,663 followers
March 19, 2017
"That was what her rabbit cakes were about, celebrating every small good thing in your life. I know most families don't celebrate every new moon or every solstice and equinox, but maybe they should. You never know when someone you love will shoot themselves in the middle of their own birthday party, or be found dead in another state, caught in a river dam, so everyone might as well have their cake right now."
This quote is a prime example of this book's tone: emotional, honest, darkly humorous, a bit shocking, but real. Told from the perspective of a 10-year-old who has learned her mother has died, she doesn't quite react how you'd think a child should. But that's the thing about grief isn't it? There are no shoulds - everyone processes it and copes differently. Annie Hartnett's debut novel: Rabbit Cake shows this fact perfectly with a complexity that surprises. I so enjoyed this book. It's a short and easy read, and as I have already noted, the black comedy keeps it lighter than this topic would feel otherwise. The audiobook experience was excellent, and the writing style had me envisioning an effortless adaptation to indie film. Check it out!

My favorite quote:
"...death never makes sense, no matter how someone dies: murder, accident, old age, cancer, suicide, you're never ready to lose someone you love. I decided death will always feel unexplained; we will never be ready for it, and you just have to do the best you can with what you have left."
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,447 reviews7,540 followers
December 19, 2017
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“We’re all different combinations of crazy.”

A book hangover, that is. It appears a handful of my friends read Rabbit Cake this past Spring, but GR must have been glitchy (or maybe I was sleep-scrolling then) because I don’t remember hearing anything about it until just last week when my real-life friend (hard to believe, but yes I do have like two of them) said she thought it might be right up my alley. If you’re reading this, let me say THANK YOU REGINA!

Meet the Babbitts . . . .

Things have been a little rough ever since Eva (the Babbitt wife and mother) died. Now, Elvis spends her time trying to figure out what really happened to her mother, Livvie is a potential danger to herself (and sometimes the entire family) every night when she sleep-eats and their Dad walks around wearing their mom’s robe and lipstick while caring for the new love of his life – a parrot named Earnest whose voice sounds exactly like their dearly departed loved one. Rabbit Cake is a story about the grieving process, told by a family who is just . . . .

“trying to be good.”

Warning to all readers: If you plan on enjoying a slice of Rabbit Cake the first thing you’re going to have to do is resign yourself to the fact that Elvis is a 10-year old trapped in a 147 year old’s body. Not literally, of course, but there has never been a human born who has the wisdom and insight and humor as our young heroine, here. If you can allow yourself to let go and enjoy and the ride, you’ll find one of the most delightful dysfunctional families since the Bluths or Belchers.

We’re talking people who will make you laugh out loud . . . .

“How is she doing?”

“She’s dead.”

“Oh my God,” he said.

“Thanks for the help.”

And, as much as I hate admit, maybe look like this before you’re finished . . . .


As you come to the conclusion with the Babbitts that . . .

“Death never makes sense, no matter how someone dies: murder, accident, old age, cancer, suicide, you’re never ready to lose someone you love. I decided death will always feel unexplained; we will never be ready for it, and you just have to do the best you can with what you have left.”

Rabbit Cake is going down as one of my favorites this year (which should serve as Exhibit A on why GR shouldn't push its users into sharing their 2017 wrap-ups so early) and this family is one I won’t ever forget. All the Stars.
Profile Image for Theresa.
228 reviews141 followers
November 4, 2018
"Rabbit Cake" by Annie Hartnett has personality galore! I don't think I've ever enjoyed a protagonist more than 10 year-old, Elvis Babbitt. She's eccentric, (yes, she's a girl) compassionate, intelligent, hilarious, and simply adorable. This is a beautiful coming-of-age YA novel about grief and healing. Elvis's mother dies unexpectedly in a drowning accident (from sleepwalking), and Elvis is left with unanswered questions surrounding her mother's demise. Was it an accident or was it intentional? Don't be fooled by this cute little cover either - this book is FUCKING WILD! Hartnett has a wicked sense of humor and vivid imagination (hard to believe this is her debut novel). Her writing is delightfully absurd, darkly comical, and deeply emotional - and sometimes ALL at once. There are some graphic and disturbing discussions about the unethical treatment of zoo animals - you have been warned, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Babbitt clan from Elvis' kooky dad, to her emotionally troubled sister, Lizzie (who's also a sleepwalker), to Elvis discovering the truth about her mother's "unconventional" lifestyle before her death. "Rabbit Cake" pulls no punches, it definitely has some "bite" to it. Incredibly funny and wonderfully touching. I highly recommend it. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,466 reviews564 followers
August 8, 2022
[3.75] Ten year old Elvis is struggling with her mother's death and her sister's out of control sleepwalking in this unusual coming of age novel. It is disturbing, tender, fun, sweet and bizarre. That is Annie Hartnett for you.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,144 reviews2,511 followers
July 5, 2017

I listened to this slim book start to finish on a long car drive and loved it. How can you resist a book that opens with this sentence:
“On my tenth birthday, six months before she sleepwalked into the river, Mom burned the rabbit cake.”

The narrator is Elvis Babbitt, a ten-year-old girl who has just lost her mother, Eva. I fell completely in love with her. She’s quirky and lovable, wise, yet naïve. Her weird and quirky family attempt to navigate the world and find their new normal after their mother’s accidental drowning. The humor keeps this from becoming maudlin or depressing. You will be laughing as your heartstrings are being tugged.

Elvis is convinced her mother’s death was not accidental and sets about discovering what really happened. Her mother was also working on a book about animals and Elvis decides to continue her mother’s legacy by volunteering at the zoo. All the fun weird facts about animals were an added bonus that I loved.

Her older sister Lizzie seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps as she struggles with sleepwalking. Their mother celebrated every special occasion by baking a rabbit cake and Lizzie’s path to healing involves baking an eye-popping number of rabbit cakes in the hopes of breaking a world record.

Dad is also struggling and finds comfort in wearing articles of his dead wife’s clothing and by taking in a parrot (named Ernest Hemingway!) who speaks in Eva’s voice.

It’s a messy and weird family, my favorite kind :-) This is a sweet and charming book with an important underlying theme. Each of us grieves in our own way, we’re all different from one another, and there is no wrong or right way to do it. The magical thought processes of children, and how guilt and grief can be interwoven is explored.

I highly recommend!
24 reviews35 followers
September 23, 2016
I hugged this book to my chest multiple times while reading it; that’s how much I love it. Rabbit Cake is a sweet (and occasionally melancholic) tale of intrigue, full of heart, and with a lovable cast of characters. Elvis Babbitt is learning about grief after her mother’s accidental death, which she still isn’t convinced was a mishap. Her sister, Lizzie, has been causing trouble during her sleepwalking episodes, and her dad has replaced his deceased wife with a parrot that can perfectly mimic her voice.

An inimitable novel about grief, family, and the uncertainty that follows death, Rabbit Cake is a stunning debut of what will surely be a long and lustrous career for author Annie Hartnett. You will care about these characters and their troubles; they will make you laugh and sigh with pity, sometimes both at once. This is one of those books that I couldn’t put down, that I want to carry with me everywhere I go, that I wish I could delete my memory of so I could experience it anew again and again.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,339 reviews697 followers
September 21, 2017
Ten-year-old Elvis Babbitt narrates this quirky southern novel as she processes her mother’s death. Her mother, who is an eccentric character, ailed in sleep swimming. She didn’t sleep walk, she sleep swam. Elvis’s father and mother would go to bed with their swimsuits on to keep propriety. Her father would follow her mother out to the lake, along with Boomer the family dog, and watch to assure no drowning. Unfortunately, one night her father failed to wake up, and her mother died.

Elvis’s mother always made a Rabbit Cake to celebrate all life events, including the full moon, major holidays, birthday’s….any cause for celebration. Elvis’s tenth birthday rabbit cake was burnt, which didn’t bode well for her tenth year. After her mother dies, Elvis attempts to discover who her mother really was. Elvis finds the nature of her mother’s death suspicious.

As with all novels narrated by plucky preteens, the joy of reading is the innocence of the character. As Elvis tries to get through her grief, her father starts wearing her mother’s lipstick and house robe. Her sister, who has a similar condition to her mother sleep walks/eats/bakes, and gets herself into dangerous situations. Also, her sister is a bit of a character herself in possessing a wild side. As Elvis reflects on her sister, she realizes Lizzie decides to bake rabbit cakes to ease her grief. Elvis feels alone in finding the true basis for her mother’s death.

This is a novel about processing grief and family bonds. It’s sweet and sad, and it’s very readable. It’s a fast read and one that is character driven.
Profile Image for Katie.
13 reviews
August 16, 2016
I completely fell in love with Elvis's voice and the way Annie Hartnett depicts the Babbitt clan's messy and weird yet compellingly truthful journey through their grief. It’s that perfect balance of hilarious and poignant that will make you laugh out loud while you have a lump in your throat. I want to read this novel again and again!
Profile Image for Jenni.
260 reviews
October 19, 2016
I read this book in one day. Could not put it down. Honest. Quirky. Funny. Brutally real. So so so very good.
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,478 reviews19.3k followers
January 9, 2018
While this book ended up being completely different from what I was expecting, it DID have a baby hippo in it so I am not mad at it.
Profile Image for SimitudeSims.
94 reviews20 followers
February 23, 2021
Beautiful story about mourning and acceptance. I loved the story. The characters were very relatable. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Jonathan K (Max Outlier).
614 reviews117 followers
February 24, 2023
Rating 3.70

Having read her most recent book "Unlikely Animals", I felt it important to add her debut novel which couples animals, family and grief. That said, I would have titled it "20 Months" since the plot is focused on the typical amount of time spent grieving.

Told through the POV of Elvis Babbitt, the 10 year old sister to teenage Lizzie, we learn their mother showed her love by baking a 'rabbit cake' for their birthdays. But when she's found floating in the nearby river months after her disappearance, grief strikes the family.

Located in a small town in AL, their father is shocked by the news but like any caring parent comforts the girls through compassion, understanding and love. We learn his wife Eva was a biologist and sleepwalker which was the assumed cause of death. Odd as it is, she regularly relied on the advice of Ms. Ida, a psychic she'd known for years, the first of several contradictions in terms. In addition she was writing a book about animals afflicted sleepwalking and other ailments. Sleepwalking appears to be a genetic trait, yet only impacts Lizzie. But unlike her mother, she eats, screams and destroys things, yet never remembers it when she wakes.

Dad owns the largest carpet store in the area and refers his children to a local psychologist in order to help them deal with grief. It's here where we learn the typical time frame is 18-20 months and as a result, the story is broken into segments associated with the grieving period.

Elvis is the curious type and decides to research her mother's cause of death, grief, sleepwalking and animals. As with most families pets play an important role; Boomer, their border collie was Mom's best friend while Dad's is Ernest, a talking Macaw.

Its a well known fact that people deal with grief in their own ways. Dad wears his wife's lipstick and robe; Lizzie takes drugs and becomes violent and is expelled from the local high school. Elvis comes across as the most adult by remaining focused on the research mentioned. She decides to continue work on Mom's book and in the process feels her path is that of an animal researcher. As luck would have it she's offered a volunteer position at the nearby zoo which deepens her knowledge and commitment.

Lizzie's violent behavior worsens and she's sent to a psychiatric facility where she becomes friends with Vanessa, another teen who lost both her parents in an accident and resorted to drugs to deal with the loss. Over a period of months, their bond deepens and when released, Vanessa is invited to stay with them with hopes she'll help with Lizzie's sleepwalking. Things go sideways with Vanessa however, and in order to cope with it, Lizzie decides to become the Guinness world record holder for the most rabbit cakes ever baked, her goal being one thousand.

Well paced, written and creative, the author does a nice job with reader engagement through the use of animal and sleepwalking facts while lightening the darkness through use of compassion and forgiveness. Of all characters, Elvis is the most grounded and logical which given her age, is remarkable. In many ways, she fills the gap of the matriarch even when dealing with Dad. When you add this to the other plot points, the result is an intriguing story and worthy of adding to your list
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews544 followers
July 17, 2018
My little annoyances with this book seemed to multiply like rabbits with each chapter. Cutesy YA/Chick Lit that tries way too hard to be quirky and uplifting.

The Babbitt family is grieving over the recent drowning death of the mom who was known to regularly sleep-walk and sleep-swim. Her sleep-swimming has occurred so often that each night before bed, she and her husband put on swimsuits so she won't be seen naked swimming across the river and he can be ready to hop in to save her if need be.

The dead mother has a PhD in some sort of medical research field involving the use of lab animals. In grad school, she was tasked with attaching to live rats the dismembered hands of people who'd donated their bodies to science. The goal was for the dead hands to regenerate nerves via the living rats.

Beyond her science background the mother has always believed in reincarnation and named her now-ten year old daughter Elvis because of it. Each Friday, she has had phone-readings with an agoraphobic psychic friend who owns a crystal shop. They cemented their friendship years prior when she read the mom's coffee grounds and predicted she'd commit suicide. The mother shared that predictive suicide info with her two little daughters and husband, so when she drowned while sleep-swimming, the ten year old wonders if it really was the accident the coroner reported it as. The girls sneak into the morgue but only get a good look at their mom's hair, darn it.

To deal with her grief, the ten/now eleven year old takes a position as a volunteer at the zoo. Did I mention that she is eleven? Her father begins wearing his dead wife's lipstick and robe. The 15 year old daughter starts drinking more than normal, sleep-eating, and has the father tell her school she would be home schooled from here forth, although he forgets he has the state's largest carpet sales business to handle every day. She gets into criminal mischief at the zoo, but the dad and lil sis lie for her (she is a confirmed sleep walker, so it is easy to blame that). She ends up in the psych ward getting the proper counseling she and the rest of them need.

As an homage of sorts, the 15 year old decides to break the Guinness World Book of Records record for the number of cakes baked in the shape of a rabbit. Mother Babbitt, of course, was known to bake rabbit-shaped cakes to welcome new beginnings in their family life - a birthday, the summer solstice, whatever. She would gleefully pour strawberry preserves into the cake batter so that when they cut into the cake, it would ooze yummy blood. This is one of the endearing things that are supposed to make us love the dead possibly suicidal mom.

I confess that every year on 3/14, I make Pi pies for the family. On 12/12/12, twelve of us moms sent in packets of erasers, pencils, clementines, etc to school so that all the kids in class got 12 treats that day. On April 4th, I used to send in a small wedding cake for Rebecca/Pocahontas and hubby John Rolfe. We have cupcakes on Earth Day frosted like a globe but with chocolate cake inside, hollowed out with a gummy (earth) worm inside. We eat mummy-faced mini pizzas and finger shaped garlic rolls every October. So yes- I loved that the mother celebrated EVERYTHING. But I could not forgive the character for telling her small daughters that a psychic predicted that she would kill herself. That made me hard pressed to accept the nonsensical, inaccurate tidbits alongside random (seemingly accurate) trivia about animals. Either stick to tall tales or stick to factual minutia - mixed, they don't work.

For more quirky life circumstances, the mom may have been messing around with other men (the 10 year old spies her "milking" the front of her former speech therapist inside a trailer used to haul Shetland ponies around to various hospitals to help the geriatric stroke patients be better able to regain their speech). Aside from the Shetland ponies, we have the various zoo animals, a newly acquired parrot whose speech sounds like the dead mom's, and a family dog that got killed off to further make us feel sad.

Okay, can I stop now?

I can do quirky. And YA. And grief. And the occasional feathering of Chick Lit. But this I couldn't do. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant or My Grandmother Asked You may just love this. Not me.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,006 reviews36k followers
August 28, 2022
“How many rabbit cakes did the current record holder bake? I asked”.
“I’m not sure it’s an official record, Lizzie said. ‘How many do you think Mom made?”
“In her whole life? I didn’t know. Mom had owned that cake pan for a long time. I wondered how many world records had gone unrecorded.
How did you really know yours was the world record and not just the only one someone had bothered to write down?”

Elvis Babbitt is a priceless ten year old girl who loves animals…. and through them, she is figuring things out—
“Dog’s have a lot of things about life figured out; they aren’t afraid to let something go. There hearts are always open to loving more”.

The narrative is adorably quirky with charming idiosyncrasies.
The characters are endearingly sweet!
Elvis, older sister Lizzie and Dad are coping with loss and grief over the death of Mom.

Be warned….
…a readers increase desire for cake is highly plausible. 🍰

Profile Image for britt_brooke.
1,288 reviews96 followers
April 25, 2022
“We’re all different combinations of crazy.”

What an incredible debut! I’m attached to the little girl named Elvis, her passion for animals, and love for her sister. It’s quirky, relatable, and emotional just like real life. This had everything I look for and more, including a striking cover. Yellow, of course, being the happiest color. 💛

Can’t wait to see what Hartnett does next!
819 reviews78 followers
April 2, 2017
In a small way the characters, although completely different, reminded me of the kind of characters in Tyler's Homesick Restaurant- that is- people who seem very offbeat but people you come to really care about. Read the excellent reviews written by Diane S and Jennifer.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
July 1, 2018
I'm not one to really love quirky child characters but this redeemed itself in the end for me. It's been lingering on my Kindle for a while and I picked it up at sea. I actually think it would have been a good book to include when I was doing all that grief reading last year, but it's a universal theme. Only for Elvis, her mother has died and she isn't sure how to do this thing called grieving. She tries to do it right while holding her family together, from a sister who sleepwalks just like her mother did, friends who don't always understand, an aging dog, and a father who doesn't understand mole rats.
Profile Image for Lindsey.
411 reviews19 followers
July 19, 2018
I am completely in love with this book. Since finishing I've been gushing about it to anyone who will listen, and I've loaned it out to several different people. The story is narrated by Elvis, who I wish I knew in real life because she is wonderfully weird and smart and insightful. Annie Hartnett could not have created a more qualified narrator for describing the ways in which we grieve, and for helping us understand that there is no "normal" way to do it. Each person experiences loss in his or her own way, and even though the reactions of others may seem alien to us, in our individual understanding of grief, there is no wrong way to cope. Beautifully done.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Nadia.
135 reviews12 followers
September 21, 2016
This one pulled on my heartstrings - Debut novelist, Annie Hartnett swept me from the beginning of the first chapter. A darkly comic novel about a young girl (named Elvis) trying to figure out her place in the world without her mother. Alice and her wunderland... lovely story about dealing with grief, family and adulthood.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews126k followers
June 27, 2017
Hartnett’s novel is kind of like when a lone cloud drifts in front of the sun for a few minutes during a day at the beach. The atmosphere is warm and vibrant, but there’s a looming reminder of how quickly our fragile environments can be overcast. Delight and dolefulness collide in Rabbit Cake, and it leaves one overwhelmed by the simple beauty of the novel’s spectrum of emotion. Elvis Babbitt, a ten-year-old girl who’s just lost her mother due to the hazards of sleepwalking, is likely the most memorable narrator I’ve encountered in the past year. The dysfunction of Elvis’s family following her mother’s death is at times whimsical, tragic, and untamed, but what makes Hartnett’s novel a standout is the way it finds absurdity in the quotidian. Rabbit Cake examines how families – whether human or zoo animal – function in the face of chaos, cohabitate in moments both mundane and extraordinary, and change course in times of trauma.

-Aram Mrjoian

from The Best Books We Read In March 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/04/04/riot-r...
Profile Image for JanieH.
288 reviews7 followers
October 19, 2016
Elvis Babbitt, a young girl from Alabama who suddenly and tragically loses her mother just as she starts fifth grade, narrates this story that centers around grief, mental illness, family bonds, healing and baking cakes shapes liked rabbits.

Elvis has a strong voice as she tells the tale of what happens to her quirky and enigmatic family in the eighteen months after her mother's death. You are compelled to keep reading as you really just want this lovable girl to come out the other side of all that life has put on her plate. Though this novel deals with weighty themes, it remains readable via a healthy dose of dark comedy, unique characters and surprising plot twists. With such strong writing and fully-realized characters I am already looking forward to the next novel by this debut novelist.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,200 reviews271 followers
August 1, 2017
...I'd figured out by now that death never makes sense, no matter how someone dies: murder, accident, old age, cancer, suicide, you're never ready to lose someone you love.

A charming, quirky book about a family dealing with grief. I loved that all the characters were allowed to just be themselves, warts and all. Elvis is probably one of the most genuine ten year old narrators I've come across in a long time - I enjoyed her scientific outlook on life, as well as all the animal factoids shared throughout the story.
The Story: Elvis Babbitt has a head for science, but that doesn’t help her figure out how to navigate the world in the days after her mother drowned while sleepwalking. She worries that her older sister, a sleepwalker too, will poison herself while sleep-eating. And that her dad, who wears her mom’s robe and lipstick to help his own grief, doesn’t know how to help his daughters deal with theirs.
Profile Image for Leslie.
1,127 reviews229 followers
August 22, 2017
I now decided that I need a shelf for literary kids that I adore. Maybe it should be called, "Kids I actually Like," because, in general, I'm not a kid person. I love kids in literature, providing they aren't overly precious or precocious. Here lies little Elvis. She is the BEST!!

Elvis's family is in turmoil. Her mother has died. Her dad is wearing his wife's bathrobe and her makeup and has adopted a pet parrot from the pet store who talks in wife's voice. Her sister Lizzie is sleepwalking and more importantly, sleep eating. Elvis's therapist has given her an eighteen month grieving chart and Elvis can't figure out how she's going to finish in time.

Oh this book. My poor heart. I fell in love with Elvis but I also fell for this whole family.
Profile Image for Annie Wylde.
1 review2 followers
August 17, 2016
RABBIT CAKE is one of those really special books that manages to illuminate and magnify the experience of loss and resilience through the eyes of Elvis, a tomboyish young girl with a weird and brilliant mind grappling with her mother's death. I was often struck by the kinship between Elvis and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD'S Scout, two young protagonists with iconic voices, taking in their dysfunctional worlds with eyes that see far more than people give them credit for. And like Scout, Elvis is not a pathetic or pitiable character--you feel deeply for her, then end up almost in awe of her authenticity, curiosity, and steadfast desire to take care of her father and sister, no matter how bizarre and ill-conceived her methods may be. Annie Hartnett has written a tragicomic story of grief and growing up for adults, told from the perspective of one of my all-time favorite young narrators. For lovers of voice-driven narratives, dark humor, dysfunctional families, and really phenomenal writing, this book is most definitely for you.
Profile Image for Melissa Stacy.
Author 5 books198 followers
January 25, 2018
DNF on page 321 at 97%

I tried very hard to finish this novel. Published by Tin House Books, "Rabbit Cake" follows the story of Elvis Babbitt, an eleven/twelve-year-old girl whose mother has recently drowned.

There is no plot, other than following Elvis and her family for a year and a half after the unexpected death of their matriarch. Everyone around Elvis struggles with grief in frustrating ways that are meant to seem humorous. This book was one of the most tiresome episodes in Nothing Happens In This Story that I have read in a long time.

The characters in this novel are all able-bodied, white, affluent U.S. citizens. Everyone is quirky. There is a whole lot of quirkiness in this book. If you enjoy stories about wealthy people causing their own problems and suffering for no reason, simply because they do not go to therapy even though they have plenty of money to pay for counseling, then "Rabbit Cake" will be a satisfying experience.

Elvis's late mother was a sleepwalker, and Elvis's older sister -- Lizzie -- is a sleepwalker as well. Lizzie is the star of this novel. She is mean and selfish and not likeable, and yet that is why the reader is supposed to love Lizzie. Vicious enough to punch her best friend in the jaw, and break the bone in four places: wow, Lizzie is awesome! Vicious enough to rip her dad's hair out: Lizzie is so strong! What a tough, sassy teenage girl Lizzie is! Her sleepwalking even gets so bad she's sent away to a psych ward! What a badass!

Lizzie is meant to be a heroic, wonderful figure in this book. I honestly couldn't stand her, and when the story goes into Happily Ever After Land at the end, and the platitudes start filling the pages, I just couldn't stomach this book anymore.

What is the big finale of this novel? Simply this: if you are a wealthy, white family who suddenly loses their mother, you should probably use some of your oodles of money to pay for therapy, because therapy is GREAT. Once Lizzie gets some useful counseling at the end of this book, the rainbows appear, and all is well in the world of white affluence.

The prose is adequate. The sentences are clean and the grammar is proficient. This is not lyrical or poetic writing. If you want stunning literary fiction, I suggest you look elsewhere.

There is a lot of rabbit imagery in this novel. Lizzie bakes a lot of cakes shaped like rabbits, and there is a white rabbit on the book cover, etc. etc. While I could talk about Elvis being a kind of Alice in Wonderland figure, moving through the nonsensical world of adults in this book in the same way Alice struggles to make her way through Wonderland -- I just can't spend anymore brain power on this book. If you love "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," and enjoy seeing the banal absurdities of the modern world portrayed in all their irrational glory, then you will likely enjoy this plotless novel a lot more than I did.

Recommended for people who love Happily Ever Afters, platitudes, and plotless storylines.
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