Rating:

the hare book coverA harrowing tale of female resilience 

Author: Melanie Finn

At the hot, pulsing center of Melanie Finn’s unnerving and assured feminist literary thriller is the unlikely hero of Rosie Monroe.

We meet Rosie when she’s 18 and a freshman at Parsons School of Design. At first blush, she’s naïve, unfashionable, and starved for any scrap of affection following a brutal childhood in Lowell, Massachusetts. While volunteering at the Museum of Modern Art on a Sunday morning, she’s approached by Bennett Kinney. Older and more sophisticated, he’s wearing a starched shirt and tweed jacket and has a copy of Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus jutting from his pocket.

Bennett seems to know precisely how to charm her, and when he turns to leave the gallery, he smiles and announces, “I’ll find you, Rosie Monroe.” He means this flirtatiously—right?—but we already feel a sense of foreboding slinking up the back of our neck.

As The Hare unspools, we follow Rosie’s electrifying arc from student to young mother to menopausal livewire, but at no point along the way does she ever give herself credit for being resourceful, brave, or bold. Although she’s all of these things and more, she instead likens herself to “a loose spool of middle-aged wool.” But she’s grossly mistaken, you see, because Rosie Monroe is a total badass.

Sure, it takes a while for her to get her footing after she falls hard for Bennett, but once she understands that she’s been taken advantage of, and lied to, and left behind, her fury and ingenuity are unleashed. There is nothing glamorous about her post-Parsons circumstances, but she manages to turn single motherhood and poverty on an isolated mountaintop into something rich and satisfying. She reinvents herself, trading her art for a kinship with the natural world and learning how to feed her growing daughter on dandelion greens and venison.

“There are moments, fulcrums upon which our entire lives depend,” 54-year-old Rosie—now Rose—tells a coworker toward the end of The Hare. “When we’re young we don’t see these, we don’t understand their rarity. We think we have endless possibilities. We don’t understand the suction of time.” Indeed, Rosie’s entire adult life has been shaped by that one fateful moment with Bennett at MoMA. Now, Rosie finds herself at a very different fulcrum, and she’s finally ready to shake things up.

Rosie Monroe’s story is evocative and harrowing. To tell you any more than that is to give away crucial moments in The Hare’s plot, which I don’t want to do. Instead, I want you to savor every page of Finn’s masterful, exquisitely written fourth novel. Watch carefully as a woman who’s been deceived transforms into a force of nature—flaws, scars, middle-aged wool and all.

Laura Bird