Rabbit Heart

A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Story

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9781640096370 | Hardcover 6 x 9 | 304 pages Buy it Now

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Book Description

For readers of My Dark Places and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, a beautiful, brutal memoir documenting one woman’s search for identity alongside her family’s decades-long quest to identify the two men who abducted—and murdered—her mother

Kristine S. Ervin was just eight years old when her mother, Kathy Sue Engle, was abducted from an Oklahoma mall parking lot and violently murdered in an oil field. First, there was grief. Then the desire to know: what happened to her, what she felt in her last terrible moments, and all she was before these acts of violence defined her life.

In her mother’s absence, Ervin tries to reconstruct a woman she can never fully grasp—from her own memory, from letters she uncovers, and the stories of other family members. As more information about her mother’s death comes to light, Ervin’s drive to know her mother only intensifies, winding its way into her own fraught adolescence. In the process of both, she reckons with contradictions of what a woman is allowed to be—a self beyond the roles of wife, mother, daughter, victim—what a “true” victim is supposed to look like, and, finally, how complicated and elusive justice can be.

Told fearlessly and poetically, Rabbit Heart weaves together themes of power, gender, and justice into a manifesto of grief and reclamation: our stories do not need to be simple to be true, and there is power in the telling.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

The Washington Post, A Most Anticipated Title of the Year
Elle, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
Bookshop, A Most Anticipated Title of the Year
Kirkus Reviews
, A Most Anticipated Title

"This graceful resulting memoir wrestles with failures of justice; the nuances of gendered violence; and the difficulty of making do when we are not whole." —Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

"The author’s investigations of the concept of victimhood are insightful and urgent . . . Ervin laces the poetic text with unforgettable moments of startling, shattering honesty, many of which feel impossible to witness. This is the genius of the author’s prose and what makes this book remarkable: Ervin’s unflinchingly brutal gaze, combined with her insistence on facing the worst parts of her past, make it equally impossible for us to look away." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Poet and essayist Ervin grapples in her moving debut memoir with the emotional damage caused by a parent’s violent death . . . In lucid prose, Ervin unflinchingly documents her grief and untangles how her mother’s murder impacted myriad aspects of her life. This will haunt readers long after they’ve turned the last page."—Publishers Weekly

“There are some books that are written to avoid the brutality of the world and other books that capture with an uncanny clarity the inescapable truth. Kristine S. Ervin froze me in my tracks from the first page of her startling and transfixing memoir, a work fueled by a daughter’s undying love for her mother and a refusal to stay silent about violence. Rabbit Heart will stay with me forever.” —Michele Filgate, editor of What My Mother and I Don't Talk About

"Kristine S. Ervin’s Rabbit Heart, which I read in a single sitting, is a memoir of incredible power, forged out of equal parts terror and courage and an honesty so deep and profound it took my breath away. To say this book moved me is an understatement. It is a marvel—beautiful, heartbreaking, and so very, very healing." —Lacy M. Johnson, PhD, author of The Reckonings: Essays

"If seeing clearly is love, then Rabbit Heart is a love letter. Not only to the vital, irreplaceable force at the center of this book, or to the loved ones upended by her absence, but to all the lost women who have been brutally taken out of their lives. Uncompromising, politically charged, and alert to the shifting fault lines of family, Kristine S. Ervin knows that she can’t touch light without writing it all down first, reconstructing a tower with the brightest language in reach." —Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World

“The death of a mother has lifelong effects on children, even more so when the loss is sudden and violent. Rabbit Heart depicts the effects of a mother’s murder on a young daughter’s development with searing honesty. By giving us rare access to the emotional, mental, and somatic aftermath of early loss, Kristine Ervin’s story represents the pain and triumphs of so many voiceless girls and women. This is a bravely honest, painfully beautiful book.” —Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters and The AfterGrief

Rabbit Heart is an instant classic. Required reading for those who have been impacted by gendered violence, those who love them, and any who seek to interrogate the ways our culture, by design, makes certain bodies more vulnerable. Ervin writes with so much gutting love as to somehow translate the inarticulable into art. Enter preparing to be changed.” ––Gina Frangello, author of Blow Your House Down

"A deeply moving memoir. Throughout each nuanced essay-chapter, we watch our speaker encounter grief, examine grief, and ultimately transform abiding grief into abiding art. Rabbit Heart is an elegy to a lost mother, yes. It is also a profound meditation on patience, on healing, and a bildungsroman that carries us unforgettably into the speaker's—and her family’s—bittersweet beyond." —Julie Marie Wade, author of Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing and Otherwise: Essays