Top critical review
There's Always Something: The Angstrom Saga Continues
on July 1, 2002
This is the final book in John Updike's Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom tetralogy. It is a good book with much to recommend, particularly the author's interesting fleshing-out of the character of Pru, Harry's daughter-in-law, but the Rabbit saga has clearly run out of steam. Besides spending much time rehashing the events of the earlier three books, the author also tries too hard to cram in all of the current events of the late 1980's as a method of juxtaposing them with those of Harry's personal life.
Rabbit, now in his mid-fifties, is enduring a heart condition and the shennanigans of his troubled and irresponsible son, Nelson, who has assumed the management of his late grandfather's automobile dealership. This book concerns the losses one suffers in late middle age: the loss of youth, vigor and health, and with retirement, the loss of one's career together with the sense of usefulness to one's family and to one's self. All these factors trigger a quantum drop in poor Harry's self-esteem.
All that is left to Harry Angstrom now are his memories: his childhood home, the good times with his younger sister Mim, and especially the fame he had as a high school basketball jock. In various parts of the book Rabbit is shown reading a book on American history his wife Janice had given to him as a present. It is apt that Harry Angstrom, now a creature of the American past, should spend some of his spare time reading about it. The history of the American man is about the adventures of past heroes or near-heroes, like Harry Angstrom. Rabbit also is seen listening to the news on his car radio or discussing with others the current events of the day. This is the world that has sadly passed Rabbit by.
Rabbit, who has largely ignored his doctor's advice to follow a more healthful diet and to exercise more, attempts to redeem himself and to recapture some of his colorful past by shooting baskets with some street kids. The history of Harry Angstrom has now come full circle from the young Harry Angstrom of _Rabbit, Run._ Sometimes one fails to realize that he simply cannot go home again.