Joseph Olshan
February 16, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

White Rabbit

Current Status
In Season
Kate Phillips
Houghton Mifflin

We gave it an A-

Ruth Caster Hubble is a vain, outspoken 88-year-old woman who bosses around her devoted second husband and tries to ensure order through a series of routines. But one day her methodical life is called into question when she awakens to a hallucination of a snow-colored bunny — a symptom of her slowly faltering health. This vision is related to the ritual practiced by her friends and family of calling up each other on the first of every month and blurting out ”White rabbit!” The first to call is ”an automatic winner. Victory brought a month’s worth of good luck; defeat meant you’d best watch your step.” Kate Phillips’ captivating first novel is a poignant slice of Ruth’s daily habits — her morning ablutions, her elaborate planning of boring meals. The two-dimensional surface, however, is darkened and deepened by her powerful memories of the past. The astonishing achievement of White Rabbit is that such a young writer so convincingly portrays a narrator nearly three times her age.

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