Given to me as a birthday gift, The Friend by Sigrid Nunez is a manifesto on shared solitude and the different ways in which we try to overcome grief. One of the intriguing things about the book is the author’s choice to leave the narrator unnamed along with most of the characters. However, at no point does that choice prove as an obstacle to the reading experience; instead, it renders visible particular details about the personality of the characters thereby allowing the reader to connect more deeply with them.
The book is a fairly easy read about the narrator’s journey of simultaneously losing and gaining someone and the idea of collective grief. As literary fiction, the book is peppered with trivia on various literary writers such as Adrienne Rich, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Franz Kafka among many others. The characters too draw from the similar flavor of what it means to be a writer and the conflicts attached to the profession of writing.
My favorite part of the book is the bond shared between the narrator and Apollo the Great Dane. Nunez’s take on the human-dog relationship is unlike any other. She is spot-on in her representation of the contemporary nature of company that of being alone, together. She writes, “What are we, Apollo and I, if not two solitudes that protect and greet each other?”
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. Riverhead Books, February 2019.
Reviewer bio: My name is Jacqueline Williams and I’m currently pursuing M.A in English. My field of interests includes Gender Studies, Cultural Studies and Medical Humanities.
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