The Friend
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.

The Friend Details

TitleThe Friend
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780735219441
Rating
GenreFiction, Animals, Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Dogs

The Friend Review

  • karen
    January 1, 1970
    despite my joy over twinkle lights and tiny notebooks &etc, i was apprehensive when i got this book in my quarterly literary fiction box from pagehabit. let’s just say this isn’t a good time of year for me to be reading books about suicide OR books where beloved animals might die. but this isn’t a tearjerker by any means - for a book about grief, it’s almost entirely cerebral, and most of the emotional responses to death are centered in the behavior of the dog whose master has just died.it’s despite my joy over twinkle lights and tiny notebooks &etc, i was apprehensive when i got this book in my quarterly literary fiction box from pagehabit. let’s just say this isn’t a good time of year for me to be reading books about suicide OR books where beloved animals might die. but this isn’t a tearjerker by any means - for a book about grief, it’s almost entirely cerebral, and most of the emotional responses to death are centered in the behavior of the dog whose master has just died.it’s somewhere in-between a letter and a novel, without being shaped like either - a series of loosely connected, stream-of-consciousness musings written in second-person, where the “you” is not the reader, but the narrator’s recently deceased longtime friend and mentor, whose unexpected suicide left behind a widow, two ex-wives, a career’s worth of students and readers, the narrator herself, and a 180-pound great dane named apollo. apollo is more or less foisted upon the narrator by wife three, despite her enviably rent-stabilized manhattan apartment’s “no dogs” policy, and they build a companionship upon their shared loss. the narrator is also a writing teacher, and this book feels like a writing assignment: write a book about the grieving process without being emotionally manipulative, without any named (human) characters, without a traditional plot or narrative structure. also, name-drop, quote, and reference at least fifty writers. per chapter. the result is unusual; grief manifesting in a clinical, detached way, frequently as physical symptoms of emotional distress. but ironically, it’s this self-consciously strict refusal to commit to or indulge any emotional response on paper that makes the pain stand out that much more; the control and the effort that control must require. a lot of the novel is about writing in general and about writing as therapy - it’s a recurring theme in a book in which recurrence itself is a theme. there’s always more than one thing going on in any given passage, something harkening back to, or presaging, another passage - it’s all very intricate while giving the illusion it’s unconcerned with structure. a sample page:A friend of mine who is working on a memoir says, I hate the idea of writing as some kind of catharsis, because it seems like that can’t possibly produce a good book.You cannot hope to console yourself for your grief by writing, warns Natalia Ginzburg.Turn then to Isak Denisen, who believed that you could make any sorrow bearable by putting it into a story or telling a story about it.I suppose that I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it to rest. Woolf is talking about writing about her mother, thoughts of whom had obsessed her between the ages of thirteen (her age when her mother died) and forty-four, when, in a great, apparently involuntary rush, she wrote To the Lighthouse. After which the obsession ceased: I no longer hear her voice; I do not see her.Q. Does the effectiveness of catharsis depend on the quality of the writing? And if a person finds catharsis by writing a book, does it matter whether or not the book is any good?My friend is also writing about her mother.Writers love quoting Milosz: When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.After I put my mother in a novel she never forgave me.Rather than, say, Toni Morrison, who called basing a character on a real person an infringement of copyright. A person owns his life, she says. It’s not for another to use it for fiction.there are some absolutely gorgeous moments in this book - some excellent lines and inspired observations and unexpected connections, but that’s what it left me with - i felt like i had experienced several small lovely moments without having read something… complete? i’m not able to articulate it with any precision right now, but it’s something like this book pleased me on an analytic level without allowing me any more immersive pleasure but that it also it kind of felt like when i used to have seizures - there’d be a sensation of time passing punctuated by flashes of clarity but no sense or understanding of the event as a whole. TLDR - i liked it, but i didn’t love it.although - look how cute it is under the hood:*******************************************REVIEW TO COME! my new quarterly literary fiction box from pagehabit has arrived!!oh, man - i have a LOT of catching up to do!! but what fun it will be to do so!
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Loss and loneliness are the main themes explored in this novel about friendship and the life of writing. When a woman loses her best friend and mentor to suicide she tries to understand his actions, deal with the loss of this person, and takes on the responsibility of caring for his aged, Great Dane, named Apollo. Apollo is grieving the loss of his former friend and master, and so together they travel a new road.The writing is elegant, spare, recalling literary entities who were also focused 3.5 Loss and loneliness are the main themes explored in this novel about friendship and the life of writing. When a woman loses her best friend and mentor to suicide she tries to understand his actions, deal with the loss of this person, and takes on the responsibility of caring for his aged, Great Dane, named Apollo. Apollo is grieving the loss of his former friend and master, and so together they travel a new road.The writing is elegant, spare, recalling literary entities who were also focused on their pets, finding in them many times more humanity in them than in their regular relationships. The writing is non linear, free flowing thoughts, wandering from their past relationship, to the literary endeavors undertaken by them both, and on to other subjects. Intropsective and melancholy, thoughts turn and twist, the way memories do, and always in the background the ties people have found and loved in their animals. Trivia and insights into animals, their empathy, their understanding, keen sense of smell, the bond forged between them and their human counterparts. A shorter novel, but I found it fascinating, the way it is pulled together worked for this exceptionally well. We could travel with this young woman as she attempts to come to terms with something unexpected and devastating in her own life. The words, sentences, nothing wasted, we are n her mind, her free flowing thoughts. Her own relationship with the Great Dane and what it comes to mean. This will probably be a book that won't appeal to all, but it did appeal to me. I sometimes sink into these unconventional types of fiction,just float along with the words, and ponder what I'm reading.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • J.L. Sutton
    January 1, 1970
    Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend sometimes reads like a memoir, sometimes like a letter to a friend and sometimes, in an attempt to make sense of both her friend’s death and the dog who has come to stand in for him, a philosophical inquiry. I loved it! Nunez is smart, funny and thought-provoking as she explores life, death, writing and relationships. I know this book is not for everyone. The fact that writing (and the writing life) is such a strong focus will appeal to some and turn others off. Perhaps Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend sometimes reads like a memoir, sometimes like a letter to a friend and sometimes, in an attempt to make sense of both her friend’s death and the dog who has come to stand in for him, a philosophical inquiry. I loved it! Nunez is smart, funny and thought-provoking as she explores life, death, writing and relationships. I know this book is not for everyone. The fact that writing (and the writing life) is such a strong focus will appeal to some and turn others off. Perhaps as a consequence, it doesn’t really have a strong plot (unless you count whether the unnamed narrator will find a way to keep her friend’s dog), but, in my opinion, that’s not really the point. Nunez does so much in these pages that keeps me wanting to keep reading. This was my first time reading Sigrid Nunez, but it won’t be the last time. I will look for another of Nunez’s novels and also (at some point) be reading The Friend again!
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    This was an awesome doggie good Audiobook!!!Read by...Hillary HuberIt’s dry... it’s sly..., it’s never dull!!!! It’s also quite beautiful and touching. It’s about a friend, a man, a suicide, a dog, - *Apollo*- and 3 wives....It takes place in New York... with writers and writing seminars.There’s no escaping sadness - loss - grief and death ..., but if you love dogs and literature with great dialogue.........recognize a fabulous voice narrator when you hear one - this is a wonderful choice.Slip This was an awesome doggie good Audiobook!!!Read by...Hillary HuberIt’s dry... it’s sly..., it’s never dull!!!! It’s also quite beautiful and touching. It’s about a friend, a man, a suicide, a dog, - *Apollo*- and 3 wives....It takes place in New York... with writers and writing seminars.There’s no escaping sadness - loss - grief and death ..., but if you love dogs and literature with great dialogue.........recognize a fabulous voice narrator when you hear one - this is a wonderful choice.Slip this book in between a tragic WWII book or a Political American non fiction frightening book. Love the uniqueness this book is!
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  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    I had too many problems with this book to give it more than three stars, but there is a twist at the end that I liked a lot. This turned the book around for me. In the story, a woman tells of a man who commits suicide. It is interesting to toy with the idea of who exactly is the friend in the title. I am not going to spoil the book by giving more away. I do not think the GR book description accurately describes the book; it leads you in the wrong direction. The central focus is about the art of I had too many problems with this book to give it more than three stars, but there is a twist at the end that I liked a lot. This turned the book around for me. In the story, a woman tells of a man who commits suicide. It is interesting to toy with the idea of who exactly is the friend in the title. I am not going to spoil the book by giving more away. I do not think the GR book description accurately describes the book; it leads you in the wrong direction. The central focus is about the art of writing. Many references are made to authors, contemporary authors such as Svetlana Alexievich and Karl Ove Knausgårdand J.M. Coetzee to name but three, and many novelists, poets and playwrights of the past. Often this was simply name-dropping, but on other occasions that said was interesting. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet written by Rilke when only twenty-seven. We are given a smattering of many different authors’ tips for good writing. In the telling of the story we are in the head of the central protagonist. Thoughts are free-flowing, and this is at times confusing. Who is the “she” and the “he” and the “you” referred to? Names are not used—neither for the man who commits suicide nor his first, second or third wife. Given the style of writing and the absence of names, one does not come close to the characters. There is a dog. Here we have a name; he is called Apollo. The writing about Apollo is perceptive and shows the author knows dogs well--how they move, how they nudge you with their nose, how they stare in your eyes, dance on their paws to draw your attention and speak to you. Yet very little in this book is actually about dogs! There are some statements about authors and their dogs.The book has humor. One example is when Apollo is taken where dogs are not allowed. Questioned, the reply was that he was a service dog…….even if no badge declared him as such! How dare this even be questioned! “This dog is my emotional support companion.” I have told myself to remember that line.The audiobook is very well narrated by Hillary Huber, but with some sections better than others. I particularly liked when the central protagonist is at her therapist. The final sections are better than in the beginning, maybe because as the book gathers strength and focus the reading does too.
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    Dino is a lot of dog. Thirty-four inches from shoulder to paw. A hundred and eighty pounds. Attached was a photo: the two of you, cheek to jowl, the massive head at first glance looking like a pony’s. Later you decided against the name Dino. He was too dignified for a name like that, you said. What did I think of Chance? Chauncy? Diego? Watson? Rolfe? Arlo? Alfie? Any of those names sounded fine to me. In the end you called him Apollo.The main character of this book goes unnamed. She’s a single, Dino is a lot of dog. Thirty-four inches from shoulder to paw. A hundred and eighty pounds. Attached was a photo: the two of you, cheek to jowl, the massive head at first glance looking like a pony’s. Later you decided against the name Dino. He was too dignified for a name like that, you said. What did I think of Chance? Chauncy? Diego? Watson? Rolfe? Arlo? Alfie? Any of those names sounded fine to me. In the end you called him Apollo.The main character of this book goes unnamed. She’s a single, middle-aged woman who has lived for many years in a tiny rent controlled apartment in Manhattan that doesn’t allow pets. Her best friend and mentor, who is also unnamed, has just passed away under tragic circumstances, and his third wife has contacted her. She wants her to take possession of his dog since the wife plans to travel extensively and doesn’t feel it’s fair to keep a Great Dane in a kennel. No one else will take the traumatized dog who is grief-stricken and comes with a troubled past, having been abandoned in the park where the mentor found it. The woman reluctantly agrees to care for Apollo, though as a temporary arrangement until another solution can be found since she will face eviction if she keeps him beyond a certain amount of time. Woman and dog get off to a rocky start as she deals with this giant in her closet-sized apartment, trying to both cheer and comfort him over his loss. But who is comforting whom? Having your dog is like having a part of you here. Mostly he ignores me. He might as well live here alone. He makes eye contact at times, but instantly looks away again. His large hazel eyes are strikingly human; they remind me of yours.What do dogs think when they see someone cry? Bred to be comforters, they comfort us. But how puzzling human unhappiness must be to them. We who can fill our dishes any time and with as much food as we like, who can go outside whenever we wish, and run free—we who have no master constantly needing to be pleased, or obeyed—WTF?The friend who is most sympathetic about my situation calls to ask how I am. I tell him about trying music and massage to treat Apollo’s depression, and he asks if I’ve considered a therapist. I tell him I’m skeptical about pet shrinks, and he says, That’s not what I meant.Will the woman keep Apollo and risk losing her apartment? And more importantly, will she risk losing her heart to him, same as she did with his master? Before you decide if this book is for you, be warned it isn’t a cute story about a woman bonding with a dog, though that’s a part of it. It’s a serious study of grief and a study of life on both sides of it. There is plenty of humor, too, so no worries that this story is grim, even though a certain amount of heaviness breaks through the humor. And here’s another warning. Know that the dog’s part in the story is limited to about a third of it at most, much of his part in it told to the reader instead of it happening in real time, which surprised me from what I read in the summary. That’s because Apollo is mostly used as a launching pad for everything else the author, by way of the main character, wanted to discuss. There’s a lot in this book about the professions of teaching and writing, as well as discussions about literature, life, philosophy, and aging, and how important animals are in our lives and the nature of our relationship with them. I believe the intensity of the pity you feel for an animal has to do with how it evokes pity for yourself. I believe we must all retain, throughout our whole lives, a powerful memory of those early moments of life, a time when we were as much animal as human, the overwhelming feelings of helplessness and vulnerability and mute fear, and the yearning for the protection that our instinct tells us is there, if we could just cry loudly enough. Innocence is something we humans pass through and leave behind, unable to return. But animals live and die in that state, and seeing innocence violated in the form of cruelty to a mere duck can seem like the most barbaric act in the world. I know people who are outraged by this sentiment, calling it cynical, misanthropic, and perverse. But I believe the day when we are no longer capable of feeling it will be a terrible day for every living being, that our downward slide into violence and barbarity will be only that much quicker.And here’s something very interesting about how this story is told. All of these discussions take place within the main character’s head in a conversation aimed at her deceased friend, letting him know all that’s been happening since he’s been gone, while reminiscing about the past with him. This is not a gimmick and is done skillfully, the author avoiding a stifling internal monologue in favor of using a near dialogue that allows the reader to breathe inside the main character’s head. And it’s done for a specific reason I won’t spoil. I enjoyed quite a bit of this book once I adjusted my expectations concerning it. The story, the writing, and all the musings of the main character were great. But I really wanted more of Apollo with his quiet dignity and his not so quiet indignity. And I wanted more of what he was up to as it was happening instead of being told about it after the fact. I feel the book would have been even better for it, while giving all those words a rest for just a bit. So if you’re looking for a story with a lot of dog in it, too, you may not be satisfied with this book. But now that you know what to expect going in, this may not bother you. What there was of the dog was wonderful. And there were plenty of other interesting things to read about besides him in this book of hanging in, hanging on, and letting go.
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  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    6 out of 5. An astounding novel, and totally surprising. I expected a dog novel, and while that is a part of what makes this book great, it is so much more: a meditation on grief, on writing, on philosophy and on New York. It is funny, it is poignant, it is tremendously sad and abundantly hopeful. It is surprising, too. I feel as though I will be drawn back to this book again and again, throughout my life. When dogs pass, when friends pass. When I doubt my decision to be a writer. All those thin 6 out of 5. An astounding novel, and totally surprising. I expected a dog novel, and while that is a part of what makes this book great, it is so much more: a meditation on grief, on writing, on philosophy and on New York. It is funny, it is poignant, it is tremendously sad and abundantly hopeful. It is surprising, too. I feel as though I will be drawn back to this book again and again, throughout my life. When dogs pass, when friends pass. When I doubt my decision to be a writer. All those things, any of those things - or perhaps when I just want to read something perfect.
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  • Polly
    January 1, 1970
    DNFNormally I would never review a book I didn't finish. Actually, I normally would never not finish a book. However, I hated this book so much that I had no choice. If you want to read about a main character who is mourning a sad older white man who takes advantage of his students and then justifies it because it's the women's fault because they have all the power, or read about how much harder it is to be a writer than a sex traffic victim, then this is for you. Also, the main character reads DNFNormally I would never review a book I didn't finish. Actually, I normally would never not finish a book. However, I hated this book so much that I had no choice. If you want to read about a main character who is mourning a sad older white man who takes advantage of his students and then justifies it because it's the women's fault because they have all the power, or read about how much harder it is to be a writer than a sex traffic victim, then this is for you. Also, the main character reads a book about a man who was in love with his dog (a book recommended by the dead creep she's mourning) and then she shows signs of being disappointed that there was no bestiality in the book. This book is a piece of trash and I cannot believe anyone would finish it, let alone give it a good rating. I'm a librarian and believe in the sanctity of books but if I hadn't borrowed this piece of crap from my local library, I would have thrown it in the trash to save someone else from the horror of reading this book. I ask again, where the hell did editors go??
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  • Robert Blumenthal
    January 1, 1970
    I have recently become a huge fan of Sigrid Nunez, and this latest effort did not disappoint. It reads more like a memoir than a traditional novel, and yet a surprising literary trick makes this very much of a fiction. It is the story of a woman who has had a longtime friendship with a very famous male author who has recently committed suicide. He has had three wives and was a robust womanizer and adulterer, especially with his fresh young students. He leaves his large gentle giant of a dog, a G I have recently become a huge fan of Sigrid Nunez, and this latest effort did not disappoint. It reads more like a memoir than a traditional novel, and yet a surprising literary trick makes this very much of a fiction. It is the story of a woman who has had a longtime friendship with a very famous male author who has recently committed suicide. He has had three wives and was a robust womanizer and adulterer, especially with his fresh young students. He leaves his large gentle giant of a dog, a Great Dane, who his third wife cannot and will not take care of. She asks the narrator to take the dog, which she does reluctantly. Although there is a slim story that follows the ensuing relationship between the narrator and the dog, much of this slim novel concerns the process of writing and the place of the fictional writer in our society. I found some of it to be absolutely brilliant in philosophically processing reality vs. fiction and espousing on the inherent loneliness of the writer of fiction. Those of you looking for a deeply emotional story about a woman and her dog, though definitely included in all this, will probably be quite disappointed by this novel. I found this book to be so intelligently and cleverly written and found myself very involved despite the general lack of narrative tension and clear narrative thread. The author references many artistic and cultural individuals (Virginia Woolf, J. M. Coetzee, Mozart, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Proust) and she writes with such confidence.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I read this as part of the Summer Tournament of Books. Similar to Kudos, the other title being considered this month, Sigrid Nunez's The Friend is written in a subtle tone with no real distinct plot, the author's thoughts meandering as we make our way through the book. The general premise behind The Friend is about an author who has been given her best friend's dog after he has committed suicide. At first she only assumes this role of caretaker to be closer to her departed friend and mentor but I read this as part of the Summer Tournament of Books. Similar to Kudos, the other title being considered this month, Sigrid Nunez's The Friend is written in a subtle tone with no real distinct plot, the author's thoughts meandering as we make our way through the book. The general premise behind The Friend is about an author who has been given her best friend's dog after he has committed suicide. At first she only assumes this role of caretaker to be closer to her departed friend and mentor but towards the end of the novel her mindset shifts towards healing and Apollo the dog. As she cycles through the stages of grief she also reflects on the writing process and its role in catharsis.
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  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    January 1, 1970
    I almost bailed on this a couple of times, but it is short and has gotten such critical acclaim that I decided to power through. There is a thin story about a woman grief-stricken over the death of a friend and how she cares for his dog. But a lot of the book is just ramblings about various topics. There is also a lot of whining about how tough it is to be a writer and the state of literature today and how everybody thinks they can write, etc. 🙄
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  • Jenny
    January 1, 1970
    Very disappointing. Misleading title. I wanted to read more about the dog's story. It seemed like a prolonged eulogy of a dead character who wasn't really a very nice person. I felt the many literary allusions were there just to show how erudite the narrator was and had nothing to do with adopting a grieving dog.
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  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    A short, tender novel/meditation on grief, love, suicide and writing. And pets. Kleenex may be required, although there’s nothing sappy in the writing.
  • Sarah Tittle
    January 1, 1970
    I read this very lovely book in about a day. It goes down very easily, but the subject matter is anything but. A woman--a writer--is grieving the suicide of her dear friend, who was also a writer. The book's cover, and the jacket copy, will have you thinking this is a book about her relationship with the friend's dog, who ends up in her care. But I think, above all, this is a book about writing. Nunez creates a penetrating portrait of the modern writer--teaching to make money, struggling with fe I read this very lovely book in about a day. It goes down very easily, but the subject matter is anything but. A woman--a writer--is grieving the suicide of her dear friend, who was also a writer. The book's cover, and the jacket copy, will have you thinking this is a book about her relationship with the friend's dog, who ends up in her care. But I think, above all, this is a book about writing. Nunez creates a penetrating portrait of the modern writer--teaching to make money, struggling with feelings of irrelevance, wondering about the morality of turning life into fiction. I'm not trying to undercut the meditation on grief, which this book is as well, but I think there's a lot here for writers to chew on. The narrator is working on a project that gives sex-trafficked women a way to write about their experiences in the hopes of helping to heal the trauma. If I managed to find the precise words and the right tone--if I got the full true filthy horror of it down, in good clean prose--what would it mean? At the very least, I thought, writing should help me, the writer, understand better, but I knew this was wishful thinking. Writing wasn't gong to bring me any closer to understanding the kind of evil I was confronted with. . . . The only thing I could say for sure, and which I believe is true in general for projects like this, was that the important persona involved is always the writer.The fact is, most writers of the past were of the privileged class. These days, Nunez's narrator is saying, students scoff at writing as a vocation, or will only read writers who don't come out of privilege. And where does that leave an upper-middle-class middle-aged woman who writes fiction and, in this case, is trying to write her way out of an enormous loss. Sure I worried that writing about it might be a mistake. You write a thing down because you're hoping to get a hold on it. You write about experiences partly to understand what they mean, partly not to lose them to time. To oblivion. But there's always the danger of the opposite happening. Losing the memory of the experience itself to the memory of writing about it. Like people whose memories of places they've traveled to are in act only memories of the pictures they took there I don't know, this parallel theme didn't at all detract from the absolute pleasure of reading the book. It actually engaged me more. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you are looking for a story about how dogs can help us deal with profound sadness, this is that but so, so much more. Like the recent novels by Ali Smith, The Friend is internal, cerebral, and gorgeously evocative. It's about what it's like to be sensitive in an overwhelming world, and it moved me, and made me feel less alone. And yes, it totally made me see my dog in a whole new light.
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  • Joel
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book to fill the prompt of “A book about death or grief” for the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. The book’s inside-cover blurb made it sound sublimely fitting (A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog), so when I received this book in the mail, I immediately shelved the book I originally had planned for this prompt and started reading this instead.I almost wish I hadn’t.I don’t feel like the book ever lived up to its own bl I read this book to fill the prompt of “A book about death or grief” for the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. The book’s inside-cover blurb made it sound sublimely fitting (A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog), so when I received this book in the mail, I immediately shelved the book I originally had planned for this prompt and started reading this instead.I almost wish I hadn’t.I don’t feel like the book ever lived up to its own blurb. There wasn’t a cohesive plot—just a series of usually short, often disjointed collections of thought disguised as paragraphs, masquerading as a story.The author spends more time writing about writing (and basically retelling another book which heavily influenced the writing of this one) than she does delving into grief. For most of the book, the dog is more of a prop than a living being with which she develops a bond. And the penultimate chapter? Ridiculous, confusing, self-gratifying literary masturbation is about all it amounts to.The only reason this book doesn’t get one star from me is because Nunez does write beautifully, but like the cloud of butterflies that appear at the end of the book, it’s just a momentary glimpse of beauty that immediately dissipates into something lacking cohesion and substance.2 out of 5 stars.
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  • Valerie
    January 1, 1970
    The Friend by Sigrid Nunez offers a look into the literary world through a very specific lens. I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed paging through this one. Nunez frames a story of grief through the recounting of a longstanding friendship. It read equal parts introspection and observation. In many ways, it feels like the main character’s way to recognize and grapple with these feelings in a productive manner, (view spoiler)[a suspicion confirmed as the book comes to a close. (hide spoil The Friend by Sigrid Nunez offers a look into the literary world through a very specific lens. I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed paging through this one. Nunez frames a story of grief through the recounting of a longstanding friendship. It read equal parts introspection and observation. In many ways, it feels like the main character’s way to recognize and grapple with these feelings in a productive manner, (view spoiler)[a suspicion confirmed as the book comes to a close. (hide spoiler)] What was happily surprising about The Friend was how much of it focused on the act of writing and calling oneself a writer. Nunez and her character examine that choice as the story plays out by means of many a flashback and an ongoing conversation between a woman and her friend. I’ll admit there were parts I struggled with (her friend is in many ways a frustrating character to read), but the overall story was engaging enough to keep me motivated to finish. Her relationship with the pet is only one of the many things explored here, making it a much richer and captivating story than I originally anticipated.
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  • EJ
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not sure why so many people are raving about this. It's a stream of consciousness mess that makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like high literature. I was expecting something heart warming and dog-filled. Instead got a pretentious narrator who could barely function beyond her own incompetence and entitlement.
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  • Tristan
    January 1, 1970
    At one point in the book the unnamed protagonist has a meeting with her old writing professor and close friend. He complains that his students now demand that the writer be a good person. They can't stand a book written by a flawed person. This turns into a discussion about how most writers are privileged. The societal turn is towards writers having an obligation to tell the stories of the less fortunate. I thought of that part of the book when I saw some of the negative reviews for this book. Y At one point in the book the unnamed protagonist has a meeting with her old writing professor and close friend. He complains that his students now demand that the writer be a good person. They can't stand a book written by a flawed person. This turns into a discussion about how most writers are privileged. The societal turn is towards writers having an obligation to tell the stories of the less fortunate. I thought of that part of the book when I saw some of the negative reviews for this book. Yes the protagonist is flawed. Yes the person she is mourning for was flawed, deeply so. This isn't a book to sing the praises of professors who use their power to sleep with their students. This isn't an ode to the womanizer. This is a book about the complexities of relationships, mourning, suicide, loss, and the bond between animals and humans. It's written in a stream of consciousness style. It takes a quarter of the book to figure out who the protagonist is and why she's writing this stream of consciousness to a suicide victim. I enjoyed the book and thought Nunez did a good job of using fiction to explore some difficult subjects. Yes her characters are flawed, that is what makes them real. That is what makes the story come alive. I got this book as part of the PageHabit quarterly box. Nunez included two books discussed in "The Friend." "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Marie Rilke and "My Dog Tulip" by J.R. Ackerley. Although I didn't enjoy "My Dog Tulip" as much, I highly recommend reading both them before reading "The Friend."
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Strongly recommended to writers and literary readers who are in mourning and/or are an animal's human companion.
  • Jane Conrad
    January 1, 1970
    The description of this book is off. It is not primarily about a grieving woman and a dog, although that is the part of the book I liked best - in which the themes of love, grief, friendship and loyalty are explored. But too much of this book focuses on conversations between the woman and her deceased friend, both writers, about the process of writing, the egoism, perceptions and treatment of writers. It is as if Ms. Nunez kept a notebook about writers and writing, and dumped all of her random t The description of this book is off. It is not primarily about a grieving woman and a dog, although that is the part of the book I liked best - in which the themes of love, grief, friendship and loyalty are explored. But too much of this book focuses on conversations between the woman and her deceased friend, both writers, about the process of writing, the egoism, perceptions and treatment of writers. It is as if Ms. Nunez kept a notebook about writers and writing, and dumped all of her random thoughts about those topics into a book about a woman who has lost a dear friend and taken on his dog. Or figured she couldn't call it a novel if it was a diatribe about writing, so she threw in a soulful Great Dane to soften the complaints and laments of the two humans about their vocation. Too disjointed, despite the compelling descriptions of grief and recovery through a relationship with a dog.
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  • Violeta
    January 1, 1970
    This book made me glad to be an MFA program drop-out...The writing/professorial universe this novel is set in is aptly rendered yet impossible to emotionally connect with. The human characters are either pompous or neurotic. There is negligible plot. The writing is unbearably pretentious. I only read the book the whole way through to find out if something happens to the dog, Apollo. It does, and one of my book rating’s two stars is for the last few pages.
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  • Ellen Gail
    January 1, 1970
    the magical bond between a woman and her dog Did someone custom order my tears?
  • Wesley
    January 1, 1970
    An elliptical masterpiece about grief and transference as gripping as it is moving.
  • cardulelia carduelis
    January 1, 1970
    Tw: grief, suicide.Where to begin with The Friend? It is so many things: a memoir, a collection of books that are significant to the author, vignettes of her life in the style of Speedboat, thoughts about the personality of writers, thoughts about what drives people to suicide, thoughts about safe spaces in courses on the Arts. And some stuff about dogs too. Despite this odd combination of styles and source material it's a beautifully written book. The narrative voice is calm and gentle, leading Tw: grief, suicide.Where to begin with The Friend? It is so many things: a memoir, a collection of books that are significant to the author, vignettes of her life in the style of Speedboat, thoughts about the personality of writers, thoughts about what drives people to suicide, thoughts about safe spaces in courses on the Arts. And some stuff about dogs too. Despite this odd combination of styles and source material it's a beautifully written book. The narrative voice is calm and gentle, leading the reader by the hand through some difficult material. It's never easy to go through the motions of a person grieving a beloved friend or pet but Nunez is insistent. The story of death that touched me the most was the (true) incident that led to her cat being put down without her, despite asking to be with the animal when it died. It's a horrendous thought that I've agonised over myself: did she think I abandoned her? The thread that ties these themes together is, of course, grief and trying to understand and examine why her friend decided to end it the way he did but I don't really feel that this book was focused on its theme. What I mean is that tens of pages go by where Nunez talks about spousal abuse, slavery, men's attitudes towards women, that seem to have nothing to do with the plot or even to do with the narrator. They are things she has observed and feels inclined to discuss: an impulse which, itself, is also examined. One of the things I enjoyed reading about was the narrator and friend's discussions about the changing attitudes of students towards the arts. How a colleague got written up for including a text in their curriculum about sexual violence. How students refused to read Nabokov, not because of their abhorrence to his work, but because of who he was as a person. The narrator doesn't often express an opinion about this but you get the sense she is torn. She seems to find her friend's habit of dating his students not quite right but isn't that put-out about it. She takes the campus sexual harrasment training and is surprised that telling an off-colour joke or suspecting an affair should be reported. This is a very topical subject and I kind of wish Nunez had spent more time with it. It seems that a central theme of this decade (for better!) is people claiming autonomy for their own bodies and struggles and learning to say no. I wonder a lot how this effects the arts, I would have liked to read more about it. I did enjoy this book. Nunez's writing style heavily reminds me of Elizabeth Strout: well crafted, calm, unflinching. I would recommend it but just be aware it is a book of this time and is more of a character study than a true story. Why only 3 stars then? I found the occasional synopses of books and films quite distracting. They went on for pages, with Nunez gushing about their influence on the narrator's life. I'm also not sure how to feel about the penultimate and final chapter which feel like two alternate endings: pick the one you prefer! It broke the 4th wall more than I was comfortable with. ======================This was Book 1 in my literary subscription box. Quarterly LitBox Winter 2017/18Book 1: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez Book 2: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria RilkeBook 3: My Dog Tulip (TBR)
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  • Steven Felicelli
    January 1, 1970
    //The Friend// Sigrid Nunez is referring to in the title of her new novel is and isn't a dog. This almost human sized dog (a Great Dane) was bequeathed to the protagonist by an unnamed author friend and former flame, after his suicide. Said flame had quickly gone out long ago, but the protagonist seems to have kept it burning while this friend went on to marry thrice (the women designated Wife #1, Wife #2, and Wife #3). Her deceased friend was a notorious womanizer (a dog) and the protagonist mu //The Friend// Sigrid Nunez is referring to in the title of her new novel is and isn't a dog. This almost human sized dog (a Great Dane) was bequeathed to the protagonist by an unnamed author friend and former flame, after his suicide. Said flame had quickly gone out long ago, but the protagonist seems to have kept it burning while this friend went on to marry thrice (the women designated Wife #1, Wife #2, and Wife #3). Her deceased friend was a notorious womanizer (a dog) and the protagonist must work through her feelings about this and various other character flaws; directly addressing the departed as she begins to view the Great Dane as a kind of fairy tale surrogate. Beyond the comic anthropomorphisms and sublimated grief, the narrator is deeply preoccupied with what it means to be a writer today. She quotes her 'friend': "People talking about a book as if it were just another thing, like a dish, or a product like an electronic device or a pair of shoes, to be rated for consumer satisfaction..."And while she'll play devil's advocate, it seems clear that she shares in his literary lamentations. Her second person narrative is interspersed with tragicomic quotations, factoids and anecdotes from the history of literature and art, which resonate with that rich and perhaps receding tradition. Reminiscent of Carolyn Parkhurst's //Dogs of Babel//, Adolfo Bioy Casares //Asleep in the Sun// and David Markson's late work, Sigrid Nunez's //The Friend// is a meditation on loyalty, cruelty and the future of authorship.
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  • Margaret
    January 1, 1970
    i hated this book so much i have not hated like this in a long while!!! truly toxic, truly pathetic, truly deeply horribly a novel abt internalized misogyny & the failure to see the failings of one's elders/mentors, read this book if u r a mean baby boomer who hates the youth, omfg, i can't even articulate how bad this book about a professor who sleeps w/ his students & everyone thinks that makes him so literary and troubled is...
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  • Janani
    January 1, 1970
    DNFListen, I made it through the protagonist mourning for the creepy dead white dudebro professor-turned-friend that she looked up to, but this business of justifying his philandering by placing the onus on the students that he was sleeping with (hello, unequal power dynamics?) and alluding that it's harder being a writer than a victim of sex trafficking, not to mention the Freudian stuff thrown in there-hard pass.
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  • Mississippi Library Commission
    January 1, 1970
    The Friend explores the essence of humanity: the anguish of loss, the comfort of friendship, and the highs and lows of love. Sprinkle in some author praise and dog love and this short book achieves near perfection, all told with a tidy turn of phrase that steers clear of excessive verbosity.
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  • Jamey Bradbury
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't come to this book expecting to recognize myself, but that's what happened. While the book is mostly about grief and loss and friendship, it's also about the life of a writer and, more specifically, the life of a person who chooses to be alone. Nunez's nameless narrator isn't asexual, but she hasn't taken a lover in a long time, so she comes across as nominally asexual--I identified with her in this way, and in the way she spends her time, writing and caring for a pet, spending a signifi I didn't come to this book expecting to recognize myself, but that's what happened. While the book is mostly about grief and loss and friendship, it's also about the life of a writer and, more specifically, the life of a person who chooses to be alone. Nunez's nameless narrator isn't asexual, but she hasn't taken a lover in a long time, so she comes across as nominally asexual--I identified with her in this way, and in the way she spends her time, writing and caring for a pet, spending a significant amount of time on her own and reflecting upon what it means to not just single but alone. The Friend is simultaneously elegant and elegiac, witty and mournful--but most of all, surprisingly. I think it's made me a Nunez fan for life.
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  • Ebirdy
    January 1, 1970
    I've never read anything by this writer before. I'm really glad I took a chance with this book. Her writing is spare and beautiful. And I finally feel like I've read enough that most of her literary references, I at least have a clue about. Rather than try to describe what it's about, or the experience of reading it, let me suggest that you, too, take a chance and read it. The subject matter is dark, you will cry...but I don't think you'll be sorry you read it, despite that.
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