Rabbit Heart: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Story (Hardcover)

Rabbit Heart: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Story By Kristine S. Ervin Cover Image
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A Washington Post “Most Anticipated” Book of the Year • A New York Times “Must Read”

For readers of My Dark Places and The Fact of a Body, 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

"Melding true crime with memoir, Ervin reminds us of what happens when we conflate people with the transgressions committed against them—the collateral damage we inflict when we turn human beings into moral allegory . . . A powerful treatise on love and loss, on mothers and daughters, but it is also a warning to all of us who consume true crime." —The New York Times Book Review

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 from 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 into her own fraught adolescence. 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

KRISTINE S. ERVIN grew up in a small suburb of Oklahoma City and now teaches creative writing at West Chester University, outside Philadelphia. She holds an MFA in poetry from New York University and a PhD in creative writing and literature, with a focus in nonfiction, from the University of Houston.

Praise For…

The New York Times, A New Book to Read This March
Named a Most Anticipated Book by The Washington Post, Elle, PureWow, Bookshop, and Kirkus Reviews

"A devastating account from the other side of murder, outlining in stark detail the trauma we fail to recognize when we consume tragedy as entertainment . . . Melding true crime with memoir, Ervin reminds us of what happens when we conflate people with the transgressions committed against them—the collateral damage we inflict when we turn human beings into moral allegory. She asks, too, what it means to live in a world where even death does not spare women’s bodies from the indignity of surveillance . . . Rabbit Heart is a powerful treatise on love and loss, on mothers and daughters, but it is also a warning to all of us who consume true crime." —Alissa Bennett, The New York Times Book Review

"A heartfelt memoir . . . [T]his daughter’s tribute will stand as a passionate, powerful memorial." —Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe

"[A] poetic, moving memoir." —People

"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 memoir in general rejects simple statements and always finds a way to root itself in complexity . . . Ervin’s poetic and nuanced writing style is immersive and deeply rewarding." —Caitlin Thomson, The Rumpus

"It’s part true crime, examining the original corrupt trial as well as DNA evidence that emerged decades later, and part memoir—in poetic, heartbreaking prose, Ervin pieces together an image of her mother and revisits her younger self with the empathy and understanding she needed so desperately at the time. To say it’s a difficult read would be putting it mildly, but it’s even more so empowering, revelatory, and abundant with love." —Arianna Rebolini, Bustle

"With an unwavering gaze and in sharp, poetic prose, Ervin asks readers to bear witness to the violences her mother experienced and examines how patriarchal systems incite further violence through language, through silence, through the story of our bodies, through absence, and through generations. Rabbit Heart is a story about the ache of an everlasting grief, about growing up under the shadow of an impossible loss, and about how language can become a form of light in the dark, but only if we are ready to face the truth of a life in all of its complexity." —Jacqueline Alnes, Electric Literature

"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)

"[A] lyrical, genre-defying memoir . . . Her observations around gender are particularly sharp and at times heart-wrenching. No matter how hard the material, and it’s all either hard or bittersweet, Ervin approaches her story with unflinching vulnerability . . . This may be the best way true crime should be written, with nuance and unfettered compassion and with the words of the living victims or their families at the center." —Booklist (starred review)

"Stunning . . . 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 . . . 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." —Anna Spydell, BookPage (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
Product Details
ISBN: 9781640096370
ISBN-10: 164009637X
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: March 26th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English