Rabbit Heart

Early in the shattering true crime memoir Rabbit Heart: A Mother’s Murder, A Daughter’s Story, Kristine S. Ervin pauses mid-sentence to tackle a question of grammar. Which tense does one use when discussing a relationship in which one person has died? It is a question that seems to form the crux of this stunning debut: that such a relationship does continue, though on very altered lines.

When Ervin was 8, her mother was abducted from a parking lot, her body later found in an Oklahoma oil field. Both the mechanics of the police investigation and emotional reverberations continued for the next 25 years, the brutal act lapsing into cold case territory. Lost in the background was Ervin, a confused child growing into a motherless teenager, the years bringing with them both new, terrible information about her mother’s killing and an evolving relationship with the mother Ervin might have had. Ervin achingly portrays not just the unmoored girlhood she experienced, but the lifelong processing of trauma that comes from personal and early knowledge of the violence against women lurking around every corner.

In the opening pages, Ervin dedicates the book to her 8-year-old self, and indeed, parts read as her efforts to reach backwards and mother her younger self in the absence of her murdered parent. While the facts of the crime and the unfolding of the investigation are clearly and baldly delineated, this is an emotional journey intimately revealed. Ervin is a poet, and her language here is lyrical. Her depictions of unimaginable cruelty cut so close to the bone that they feel almost tangibly interior. Rhapsodic and startling, Rabbit Heart moves inside of you and explores the places of rage and grief that are often left unmonitored, revealing both the power and danger of womanhood in a violent world.


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