The Friend - Sigrid Nunez

Staff Pick

Asked “what kind of friend” uses a man’s suicide as material for a book, the narrator of Sigrid Nunez’s affecting novel might respond, what kind of friend is so careless of others’ feelings that he kills himself? This imagined exchange crystallizes the themes of this meditative and beautifully written story of one writer mourning another. A lifelong friend of the late “you,” the narrator grieves with the intensity of a lover or the raw pain of an abandoned animal.  Like the dog the dead man left behind, the emotions Nunez evokes have had obedience training but don’t always heed commands. When the narrator, moved by the dog’s loneliness, adopts him despite practical difficulties, Apollo both focuses her emotions and distracts her from own pain by making her think about how dogs understand death, how much their experience is like ours, and, if this isn’t just “the magical thinking of pathological grief,” what Apollo’s suffering can tell us about the meaning of love, loyalty, and betrayal. Discovering that being read to seems to soothe the dog, the narrator muses on the power and purpose of writing, channeling the words of an anthology of writers including Woolf, Ackerley, Rilke, Auden, Kundera, and “you,” once her own writing teacher. As eloquent as those she quotes, Nunez follows her character’s “rules of good writing” as established by the students in her workshop for traumatized trafficking victims, giving us an elegant novel free of sentimentality and self-pity, and flashing with unexpected and generous humor.

The Friend: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735219441
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - February 6th, 2018

Membership Benefits


 Gift cards can be used online or in-store.

Gift Card