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Rabbit Foot Bill

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  576 ratings  ·  91 reviews
A lonely boy in a prairie town befriends a tramp in 1947 and then witnesses a shocking murder. Based on a true story.

Canwood, Saskatchewan, 1947. Leonard Flint, a lonely boy in a small farming town befriends the local tramp, a man known as Rabbit Foot Bill. Bill doesn’t talk much, but he allows Leonard to accompany him as he sets rabbit snares and to visit his small, seclu
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 18th 2020 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  576 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a masterfully written book that told an emotional and shocking story. Although the plot seemed unbelievable, it had a factual basis. Rabbit Foot Bill was a real-life tramp who committed murder in a small prairie town in Saskatchewan in 1947.

Bill was befriended by twelve-year-old Leonard Flint, The boy was lonely, unhappy at home and bullied at school. Leonard followed Bill everywhere and developed an obsessive love for the vagrant. Bill lived in a rough shelter hollowed out on a hillsi
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This turned out to be a good read.
A work of fiction based on true events.
The story started very well.
The first 11% got me engaged, from there it became a bit boring and emotionless, especially when talking about the LSD treatment experience. After 30% there was finally a wake up (or perhaps I was the one who woke up) and an explosion of emotions, just how I like.
I was intrigued by that obsession.
How our mind works is fascinating and complex.
The ending was touching.
The writing is really good and
Oct 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Don't let my 3 star fool you - this is a good book. Just too short.

Most of my personal grievances with it have to do with its length. I wish this was longer! Like a few-hundy pages longer! This book has incredible bones and I just craved more meat. The characters are great, but they'd be more memorable if they'd been fleshed out a bit more. I wanted more backstory, more character development, more story!

I sort of envision someone like Margaret Atwood writing this, but it would be about 600 page
Darryl Suite
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars // The author doesn't waste a second. Some things addressed in the first 29 pages would take a different writer 150 pages to develop. Jeez.

It was eye-opening + alarming reading about doctors treating institutionalized patients with LSD (!!!!). It was also fascinating (and frustrating) gaining insight on how mental illness was viewed in 1950s; and who society considered mentally unstable. Personally, I wish the pace were a bit slower, but it's a good read.
Laura Hart
Feb 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating, thought provoking and moving story!

The writing is beautifully restrained but equally captivating, as it achingly explores the reality of trauma and tragedy. Based on a true story, the novel perfectly evokes the rural atmosphere of the prairies. I was unfamiliar with the long demolished Weyburn Mental Hospital and the shocking LSD experiments performed there.

A truly understated masterpiece and now my favourite from the hugely gifted Helen Humphreys!
Shelley Gibbs
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5* Wow, there's a real economy of words here, in an admirable way. I easily could have read a longer or slower version of this novel, but I'm not convinced that I would have liked it any more. It's a moving story of trauma and resilience. The kernel of the story is based on a true incident, as is the work done with LSD experimentation at the Weyburn (I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by historical medical practices, especially those undertaken in the treatment of mental illness, but yeah, I w ...more
Jade Allen
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such an engrossing book!
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There is something in Helen Humphreys' prose that just gets to me every time. I always walk away from her books simply awed by the emotional resonance of the writing. This book is no exception.
It's the story of Leonard Flint and his long emotional relationship with the recluse Bill Dunn, known to everyone in town as Rabbit Foot Bill. At a young age, Leonard strikes up a friendship with Bill as a means to escape a deeply unhappy home. It's a private source of joy for Leonard until Bill commits a
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grown-up, cnd-authors
Beautifully written and equally disturbing. I highly recommend it.
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Although this book is a work of fiction, it is based on actual events that occurred in Canwood, Saskatchewan and the Weyburn Psychiatric Hospital (also known as “the Weyburn”).

The book begins with the reader learning of the friendship between Leonard Flint, a young boy, and a local tramp known as Rabbit Foot Bill due to his trapping of rabbits to make a few odd dollars. One day Bill commits a crime that no one saw coming (including this reader), to which Leonard is a witness to. After Bill spend
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very heartfelt book, based on a true story. Humphreys does an excellent job with the characters and the story always keeping us in suspense.
Enid Wray
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was so excited to pick up the ARC of this at the OLA SuperConference last week. This is what Humphreys does best… merge fact and fiction into a compelling tale. As always she writes beautiful, elegant prose. Simple. Spare. Without unnecessary embellishment… all of which serves to make the fact of the brutality that underlies the novel all the more horrific.

Even in that first moment very early on we understand Bill’s moral code and get why he did what he did, even if we don’t learn the underly
Tracy Greer- Hansen
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was picked by Anne in my “I’ve Read This” bookclub for our November read.

First of all, I am thankful that this book was put on my radar. The events are based on a true story that happened in Canwood Saskatchewan which is perfect for this Saskatchewan raised girl. I am familiar with the surrounding area, the wheat fields, and the wide open sky.

Powerful book that I could not put down even though it made me uncomfortable. A lonely 12 yea told boy named Leonard, befriends a vagrant ex-so
A novel based on a real life story from Saskatchewan, spanning decades between the 40s and the 70s. In act one, our protagonist, a boy called Leonard, is close, very close to the local eccentric, Rabbit Foot Bill, a vagrant who makes rabbit foot chains. Humphreys wastes no ink and we quickly witness a violent murder that ends up with Bill in jail. The story moves fast, but at the same time we get good details to understand the characters and their motivations, although the author will keep some ...more
Barbara McEwen
Nov 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian
It's good, I just thought there would be a bit more to it? Sparse. ...more
Colette Connors
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have always loved Helen Humphreys This book did not disappoint. Poignant.
Doug Dosdall
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
There appears to be a fascinating real life story behind this book and I can see a great novel or piece of reporting that could be written about it. But this book left me disappointed. The middle section in the mental hospital (covering at least half the book) contributes almost nothing to the story and the characters and place do not ring true. The main character, especially in this section, is so weak and unsympathetic that there's no one to hang onto and I wondered how he could possibly have ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Not entirely sure how I feel about this - I did read it fairly quickly and I wanted to know how it all fell out, but I didn't really like any of the characters, but I'm not sure if we're supposed to like any of the characters... ...more
William Baker
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Finally an author who artfully skips the description of her characters' outer appearances except for a few instances, closely linked to the inner world. The story aids introspection rather than amusement. ...more
Anne Logan
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rabbit Foot Bill by Helen Humphreys is my online book club’s November pick (yes, that’s still going!), and days after we announced our choice, a reader messaged me to say it took her only four hours to read. I love a fast read, so I was delighted when I read this in a single day, but I have no doubt it will stick with me for awhile. I happened to read it on Remembrance Day here in Canada, which is a day we take to reflect and remember those men and women who sacrificed their lives for us during ...more
Nov 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club-reads
When asked how we (the ladies in my book club) would rate Canadian writer Helen Humphreys’ new book Rabbit Foot Bill on a scale of one to ten, the average score was about six. It’s a shockingly low number for an author whose book The Lost Garden we almost all universally loved. (I have also read her novels Afterimage and Coventry.) I have come to expect a certain degree of poetry in Humphreys’ prose, and while Rabbit Foot Bill is certainly easy to read, it lacked something. Usually after a book ...more
Zachary Houle
Oct 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Every small town has an eccentric. I grew up in a small village in Canada, so I know firsthand. Let me tell you about the one who lived in the place where I came of age: His name was Tony the Torch. He apparently got that name because, when he was a teenager, he tried to burn down the local elementary school. I don’t know how much of what follows is bullshit from what’s real, but the legend had it that — after being released from reform school or wherever they sent juvenile offenders in the day ...more
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love the way Humphries explores the boundaries or rather the lack of boundaries between fact and fiction. She gives only a small nod to the facts in her author's note: there was a murder, there was a boy who became a man, there were LSD trials at Weyburn Mental Hospital and there was someone known as Rabbit Foot Bill. While she is more forthcoming in interviews, the fuzzy line always remains and I enjoy that.

Her writing is so precise and evocative. For example the connection between Lake Onta
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
First, let me say that Rabbit Foot Bill is both compelling and fascinating. There is an urgency to this narrative that mirrors the compulsive behaviour of the characters. I really, really admire the construction of this novel. I found the relationships fascinating and I could not put this book down. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. There is such a truth to the portrayal of Lenny as someone who is both a victim and someone with a saviour complex and a profound obsession. There are no ...more
Sep 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, canadian, fiction
3.5 stars. This is a fictionalized account of a real Canadian murder story. Rabbit Foot Bill is a hermit who snares rabbits and sells their feet as lucky charms. (I know, not really charming...but he's basically a good guy.) A young boy befriends him and witnesses a pivotal event. The story is told from the perspective of the young boy after he grows up. He works as a psychiatrist at Weyburn, the Saskatchewan mental hospital where LSD experiments took place in the 70s.

The book's okay, but in my
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This fast-paced, sparely written novel tells the story of Leonard Flint, a lonely boy whose father's job keeps them moving from one small prairie town to another, and Rabbit Foot Bill, a man who has removed himself from Canwood society by living outside of town in a hill and trapping rabbits for food. When Bill kills a local boy with pruning shears in 1947, he is convicted of murder and sent to the penitentiary. The novel then moved to 1959 where Leonard has become a psychiatrist and finds his f ...more
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Have a personal interest in this topic as my dad was a psychiatrist who started his practice in Canada in 1956. He had notes on LSD, and I so desperately which I had taken the time to read them after he had passed, let alone ask him about the clinical use of LSD - fascinating.
Also, so interesting that this was all going on in small town Saskatchewan.
The story was poignant. Early on I was so frustrated and disappointed about the incompetence of Dr. Lenny. I tried to excuse it because he was you
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is small but amazing. The writing is sparse and beautiful. Based on a true story, RABBIT FOOT BILL tells the story of a boy who befriends a homeless man in late-1940s Saskatchewan. One day, the homeless man kills a bully who is targeting his young friend and is sentenced to life in prison. Twelve years later, in 1959, the boy has grown up and is completing his residency in psychiatry at a Saskatchewan mental institution where the head physician is performing experimental treatments whe ...more
Amber Dunleavy
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book just didn't do it for me. I was excited to dive into a fiction book based on some Canadian history that was new to me, but I never felt connected to Leonard or even Rabbit Foot Bill for that matter. The relationships in the book weren't convincing to me, and the LSD experiments seemed placed in there as, "Did you know this happened in rural Sask??" more so than an exploration of history and the effects of these treatments on patients. I also wanted to know more about the facility! The ...more
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Helen Humphreys is the author of four books of poetry, five novels, and one work of creative non-fiction. She was born in Kingston-on-Thames, England, and now lives in Kingston, Ontario with her dog, Hazel.

Her first novel, Leaving Earth (1997), won the 1998 City of Toronto Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her second novel, Afterimage (2000), won the 2000 Rogers Writers

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