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.
A Mother’s Murder, A Daughter’s Story
by Kristine S. Ervin
Counterpoint Press, Spring 2024
(via Sterling Lord Literistic)
Kristine Ervin was just eight years old when her mother, Kathy Sue Engle, was abducted from an Oklahoma mall parking lot and violently murdered in a nearby oil field. In the shadow of that incomprehensible act, 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. As more information about her mother’s death comes to light, Kristine’s drive to know her mother only intensifies and winds its way into her own fraught adolescence. In the process of both, Kristine butts up against contradictions of what a woman is allowed to be—a self outside of the roles of wife, mother, daughter, victim—what a “true” victim is supposed to look like, how complicated and elusive justice really is, and how we are meant to accept what cannot/should not be accepted.
“Kristine S. Ervin writes, in her deeply moving memoir, RABBIT HEART, ‘I don’t want to choose the lazy form of grief.’ And throughout each nuanced essay-chapter, the reader bears witness as she doesn’t. 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. When Ervin states, ‘Some stories are unsayable,’ she is right. So, she doesn’t say; instead, she lyrically documents and viscerally embodies her survival.” —Julie Marie Wade, author of Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing and Otherwise: Essays
Kristine S. Ervin grew up in a small suburb of Oklahoma City and now teaches creative writing at West Chester University, outside of Philadelphia. She holds an MFA in Poetry from New York University and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature, with a focus in nonfiction, from the University of Houston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Brevity, and Passages North, and her essay “Cleaving To” was named a notable essay in the 2013 edition of Best American Essays. An excerpt from RABBIT HEART appeared in CrimeReads.