BookBrowse Reviews The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

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The Friend

by Sigrid Nunez

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez X
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
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  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg

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The Friend is a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.

Sigrid Nunez is one of the most underrated authors writing today. Her work is so lovely, so captivating. The Friend is a perfect example of her fluidity with words, her talent for captivating the reader, and her enviable ability to distill the complexity of human existence into simple prose.

The Friend is a quiet, elegiac story of a woman attempting to come to terms with the death of her dear friend and mentor. Her grief is compounded by the sudden responsibility of caring for her deceased friend's large, desolate dog. Truly a simple plot, no fancy twists or cliffhangers, yet somehow it is still a page turner.

At the center of the novel is its narrator. Imperfect, eccentric, full of sadness and in possession of a rich and varied history, she is as real as anyone you know. From the first page, it's as if you've sat down for a cup of coffee with a deeply troubled friend; she even shares the books she's read, and the movies she's seen. You never know her name, but you know all of her secrets, all of her fears and insecurities. Although much of the story takes place in or around her apartment, the emotional journey she takes is large and arduous, and you feel every step.

Apollo, the Great Dane, is another beautiful creation. When our friend is weak and unstable, he is dependable and stoic. While she is tasked with his care, it is, in many ways, Apollo who cares for his new guardian – he gives her purpose, shares her burdens, and offers unrelenting support. The relationship between this silent giant and his new human is rendered with great care and understanding. Anyone who has had a canine companion will recognize the deep, abiding love between these two characters.

Nunez achieves a beautiful feat – she tells a rich and satisfying story through short vignettes, each seemingly about a very small topic. As a whole, they make up an intricate tapestry of a complicated inner life, but break them apart and you have many fully formed narratives, each with a heart of its own. Put down the book after finishing a short, page-long piece and you will have enough to think about for the rest of the day. How many books inspire the same?

This is a story of love and loss, but it is also sometimes a critique of contemporary writers, a discussion on political correctness, a meditation on the physical effects of suffering – it is a rich and flavorful concoction that fits into a remarkably compact package.

Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg

This review is from the February 7, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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