Twenty-six year old Harry Engstrom, nicknamed Rabbit, lives in the village of Mount Judge near the town of Brewer, Pennsylvania. He is married, he has a son Nelson, but there is no family happiness. Family obligations greatly weigh the hero. Janice’s wife drinks, and her pregnancy does not fill Rabbit, pride in the knowledge that their family expects to replenish. Once, back in school, he played basketball well, and the accuracy of his throws became a legend that stepped outside the native district. But Rabbit did not make a sporting career, instead he advertised various kitchen appliances like a miracle grater, and memories of past exploits only strengthen the hero’s yearning and the feeling that his life was decisively failed.
Another tiff with his unloved wife leads to the fact that he sits in the car and rides to where the eyes look, as if hoping to escape from the bewitching circle of everyday worries and troubles. But, having
reached West Virginia, Rabbit still can not withstand and, deploying the car, returns to his native Pennsylvania. Not wishing, however, to return to the disgusted house, he comes to Mr. Totero, his former school coach, and he lets him spend the night. The next day, Totero introduces him to Ruth Lenard, with whom Rabbit has a relationship that does not at all resemble love at first sight.
Meanwhile, Janice, concerned about the sudden disappearance of her husband, moves to her parents. Her mother insists that the search for a fugitive is connected to the police, but her husband and daughter are against. They prefer to wait. They are helped by the young priest of their parish, Jack Ackles. He is generally distinguished by the desire to help his parishioners, among whom too many need comfort. Spared no time nor energy for those who are entrusted to his care, Eccles is a striking contrast to the priest of the arrival of the Engstroms. The old man Kruppenbach does not approve of the “fuss” of his young colleague, believing that the true duty of the clergyman is to give his flock a positive example of his own
exemplary behavior and unshakable faith.
Eccles, however, is eager to not just bring Rabbit back to the bosom of the family, but also help him find himself. He invites him to the game of golf, listens attentively, asks about life. He finds a temporary job for him – to look after the garden of one of his parishioners, and although she does not promise the golden mountains, this is a good help to Rabbit, who fell out of ordinary life.
Slowly the relationship between Ruth and Rabbit is established, but when there is something like proximity between them, Eccles’ call returns the hero to the past – Janice is in hospital and is about to give birth. Rabbit informs Ruth about his decision to return to his wife and try to help her at this difficult hour. This departure is for Ruth a real blow, but Rabbit does not intend to change decisions. Childbirth passes safely, Janice gives birth to a girl, and soon the family reunites – four of them. But the family idyll is short-lived. He is seriously ill and then dies Mr. Totero, one of the few people in this world whom Rabbit trusted and who, it seems to him, understood him. Well, the relationship with Janice can not get right. The quarrel follows the quarrel, and finally the Rabbit again leaves the house.
For a while, Janice hides it from her parents, but she can not keep the secret for too long. This quarrel brings her back to alcohol, and soon irreparable happens. In a state of intense intoxication, Janice drops the baby in a bath, and it chokes. Harry Engstrom returns again – in order to take part in the funeral ceremony.
Decencies seem to be observed, but there is no peace between spouses. Another quarrel occurs right at the cemetery, and Rabbit, like it happened to him more than once, again flies, in the most direct sense. He runs through the cemetery in zigzags, maneuvering between tombstones, and afterwards he receives the voice of Eccles, who in vain tries to stop the hero.
He returns to Ruth, but she does not want to see him anymore. She can not forgive him leaving: one night he told her about the desire to return to his wife. It turns out that she became pregnant, in great need of the support of Rabbit, but did not get it. She was going to have an abortion, but she did not find the strength to bring her to the end. Rabbit persuades her to leave the baby, says it’s fine that he loves her. But Ruth directly asks if he is ready to marry her. Rabbit mutters: “With pleasure,” but new questions put him at a dead end. He does not know what to do with Janice, how to throw Nelson. Ruth says that if they get married, then she is ready to leave the child, but if he continues to regret everyone – and no one, then let him know: she died for him, as well as the future child.
Rabbit leaves Ruth in complete confusion. He understands that it is necessary to take some decision, but to make a constructive act above his forces. He walks through the city, and then goes on to run. He runs, as if trying to escape from problems, leaving behind all the difficulties, the painful contradictions that poison his life.
And he runs, runs…