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Summary and book reviews of The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

The Friend

by Sigrid Nunez

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez X
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2019, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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About this Book

Book Summary

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 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.

Part One

During the 1980s, in California, a large number of Cambodian women went to their doctors with the same complaint: they could not see. The women were all war refugees. Before fleeing their homeland, they had witnessed the atrocities for which the Khmer Rouge, which had been in power from 1975 to 1979, was well known. Many of the women had been raped or tortured or otherwise brutalized. Most had seen family members murdered in front of them. One woman, who never again saw her husband and three children after soldiers came and took them away, said that she had lost her sight after having cried every day for four years. She was not the only one who appeared to have cried herself blind. Others suffered from blurred or partial vision, their eyes troubled by shadows and pains.

The doctors who examined the women—about a hundred and fifty in all—found that their eyes were normal. Further tests showed that their brains were normal as well. If the women were telling the truth&#...

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    National Book Awards
    2018

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 can say the same?..continued

Full Review (427 words).

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(Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.

Library Journal
Literature nerds, creative writing students, and dog lovers will find this work delightful. Recommended for literary fiction collections.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Breathtaking both in pain and in beauty; a singular book.

Author Blurb Cathleen Schine, bestselling author of They May Not Mean To, But They Do
The intensity and elegance of The Friend mean two things - you cannot put it down and you will cry. In a novel about loss and the loneliness of writing and imagination, Sigrid Nunez creates an irresistible tale of love and an unforgettable Great Dane. A beautiful, beautiful book - the most original canine love story since My Dog Tulip.

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Beyond the Book

The Origins of Human-Canine Friendship

Sigrid Nunez's The Friend reminds us of the power and beauty of the human-canine friendship. Many of us have witnessed the relationship first-hand – our dogs "listen" to us, they comfort us when we are sad and they are the first to greet us when we come home – but where and when did it originate? How did the gray wolf become "man's best friend"?

Early DomesticationSurprisingly, this is a highly contentious question, still raising hackles and stirring up arguments across the global geneticist community.

For many years, there were two dominant theories on dog domestication – one is passive, wolves simply came around human encampments to feed off of scraps and stayed around, domesticating themselves. The other theory suggests ...

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