The friend

Sigrid Nunez

Book - 2018

A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog. When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building. While others worry that g...rief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog's care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them. Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.

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FICTION/Nunez, Sigrid
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Subjects
Genres
Psychological fiction
Published
New York : Riverhead Books 2018.
Language
English
Physical Description
212 pages ; 21 cm
ISBN
9780735219441
0735219443
Main Author
Sigrid Nunez (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The narrator's friend, a famous writer at the height of a long and successful career, killed himself and left no suicide note. What he did leave was a jealous wife and a Great Dane named Apollo, adopted when the narrator found him abandoned in the park. The wife won't keep the dog. So, driven by guilt and grief, the narrator opts to take him, even at the risk of losing her rent-controlled apartment. She can't bear the idea of another abandonment while she herself feels abandoned. They set off to build a relationship and get through their mutual grief. In rambling streams of consciousness, she recalls her relationship with the writer as a former student, a longtime friend, and a fellow writer. Onlookers wonder at the human-canine friendship, even as the narrator plunges into an existential crisis, examining her own life, writing, and the bond between dogs and humans. Adjusting and adapting, she and Apollo ultimately find comfort and salvation. Nunez (Sempre Susan, 2011) offers an often-hilarious, always-penetrating look at writing, grief, and the companionship of dogs. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This is very much a writer's novel. The unnamed narrator is an author who teaches composition, as is the eponymous friend. They met in a college writing class—she a student, he the professor—and he went on to marry another student from the same class. This would be one of his three wives, only referred to as "wife one," "wife two," and "wife three." Wife three was married to the friend when he committed suicide unexpectedly, leaving behind a Great Dane he'd recently adopted. The narrator takes the dog reluctantly and begins a journey of self-discovery. In the hands of many authors, a premise like this would be corny, but Nunez (Salvation City; The Last of Her Kind) has a subtle, ironic tone that makes it work. Was she in love with her friend? Was he a terrible person, or is the narrator exaggerating because he has died? These answers aren't important, and not much happens in terms of plot. Instead, this is a slow, poignant meditation on grief, rife with pithy literary myths and quotations. VERDICT Literature nerds, creative writing students, and dog lovers will find this work delightful. Recommended for literary fiction collections.—Kate Gray, Boston P.L., MA Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In the riveting new novel from Nunez (Salvation City), the unnamed narrator thinks in the second person, addressing an unnamed old friend, a man, who has recently and unexpectedly committed suicide. The two first met decades earlier, while she was his student, the same semester in fact, when a fellow student became "Wife One" of three. While wives and lovers have come and gone, the narrator has remained a constant, friendly intimate of the deceased, a platonic yet intense and complex relationship. Mourning, she begins writing a cathartic elegy that becomes a larger meditation on writing, loss, and various forms of love. Early in the book, Wife Three calls to ask if the narrator will take responsibility for a large Great Dane named Apollo, whom the man had found abandoned in Central Park. Despite the unexpectedness of the request, the narrator takes the dog home, and over the course of the rest of the novel, her love for Apollo both consumes and heals her. This elegant novel explores both rich memories and day-to-day mundanity, reflecting the way that, especially in grief, the past is often more vibrant than the present. (Feb.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Becoming the guardian of her late best friend's enormous Great Dane, a grieving woman is evicted from her no-pets apartment and forges a deep bond with the equally distraught animal in ways that initially disturb her friends.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Becoming the guardian of her late best friend's enormous Great Dane, a grieving woman is evicted from her no-pets apartment and forges a deep bond with the equally distraught animal in ways that initially disturb her friends. By the award-winning author of Salvation City.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

WINNER OF THE 2018 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTIONSHORTLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER"A beautiful book … a world of insight into death, grief, art, and love." —Wall Street Journal"A penetrating, moving meditation on loss, comfort, memory...Nunez has a wry, withering wit." —NPR"Dry, allusive and charming…the comedy here writes itself.” The New York TimesA moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog's care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.