...[a] dry, allusive and charming new novel ... The writing profession, in The Friend, is viewed as a series of little murders of the soul. Writers are weird, jealous, greedy, backbiting, warped from the undersea compression of competition in Manhattan ... The Friend is thick with quotations and anecdotes from the lives and work of many writers, in a way that can recall the bird’s-nest-made-of-citations novels of David Markson. Nunez deals these out deftly; they do not jam her flow. The snap of her sentences sometimes put me in mind of Rachel Cusk.
I don’t know whether or not The Friend is a good novel or even, strictly speaking, if it’s a novel at all — so odd is its construction — but after I’d turned the last page of the book I found myself sorry to be leaving the company of a feeling intelligence that had delighted me and even, on occasion, given joy ... The dog, the suicide, the writing life: These are the three strands of thought and feeling that make up the weave of The Friend. They don’t always mesh or make a satisfying design, but they are held together by the tone of the narrator’s voice: light, musing, curious, and somehow wonderfully sturdy ... The heartbreak inscribed in those final words fills the page to the margin and beyond with the penetrating loneliness—the sheer textured burden of life itself—that all of Sigrid Nunez’s fine writing had been at brilliant pains to keep both within sight and at bay ... From beginning to end, I thought myself engaged with what we now call the personal narrative.
I was drawn to her [Sigrid Nunez's] sixth novel as a fresh addition to the literature of grief, but within pages realized The Friend has as much to say about literature as about grief, and was wondering how she'd slipped below my radar ... Nunez deftly turns this potentially mawkish story into a penetrating, moving meditation on loss, comfort, memory, what it means to be a writer today, and various forms of love and friendship — including between people and their pets. All in a taut 200 pages ...a mini-Nunez festival for me, which offered ample evidence that it's no fluke. In fact, this nuanced, exceptionally literary novel about devotion is a natural outgrowth of Sempre Susan...'The question any novel is really trying to answer is, Is life worth living?' As her narrator confronts multiple losses, Nunez's affecting novel probes the issue closely.
The Friend, Sigrid Nunez’s sneaky gut punch of a novel, is a consummate example of the human-animal tale. It presents itself as a thinly fictionalized grief memoir in which an unnamed, Nunez-like writer, after the suicide of her beloved mentor, adopts his heartbroken Great Dane, Apollo ...tone is dry, clear, direct — which is the surest way to carry off this sort of close-up study of anguish and attachment. More for aesthetic than for moral reasons, the narrator gives up her attempt to write about a group of traumatized women with whom she’s been volunteering to slowly, painfully, construct instead the book we’re reading. Someone is being played here, but whether the game is at the reader’s expense or the subject’s (the dead mentor’s) remains deliberately unclear.
In its form the novel blurs boundaries between fiction and memoir, essay and story. Its voice is the intimate tone of the memoir, related by someone possessed of a well-stocked, thoughtful, indeed brilliant mind ... Many novels explore the nature of writing, but this one does it superlatively ... here is a novel that subtly represents a fresh way of doing things ... Nunez’s is not a 'look at me, am I not clever? Watch while I turn a sentence upside down' novel. But it is very, very clever. Mature. Entertaining. Eminently readable and re-readable. In short, absolutely delightful.
...plotless but nevertheless vividly compelling ... A meditation on reading and writing, love and loss, The Friend is a work rich in literary allusions and anecdotes, from Rilke through Woolf to JM Coetzee ... With The Friend...[Nunez has] found the perfect pitch ... On occasion, the clipped clarity of her storytelling reminded me of Rachel Cusk’s recent auto-fiction ... Ultimately, however, Nunez’s prose is illuminated by a wit, warmth and wisdom all of her own. The Friend is a true delight: I genuinely fear I won’t read a better novel this year.
No heartwarming tale of pet ownership, The Friend presents a meditation on the raw experience of losing someone who is neither lover nor family yet who occupies a distinctive place in the lives of those left behind ... With enormous heart and eloquence, Nunez explores cerebral responses to loss — processed through the writer’s life — while also homing in on the physical burden felt by those left behind ... Nunez offers no easy solutions; instead, she offers the solace that comes from accepting change. Friendship comes with the possibility of great joy and deep sorrow. Surviving suicide throws us into a realm outside words. The Friend exposes an extraordinary reserve of strength waiting to be found in storytelling and unexpected companionship.
The Friend could almost carry a trigger warning for writers, teachers and readers, except that Nunez’s prose itself comforts us. Her confident and direct style uplifts — the music in her sentences, her deep and varied intelligence. She addresses important ideas unpretentiously and offers wisdom for any aspiring writer who, as the narrator fears, may never know this dear, intelligent friend — or this world that is dying. But is it dying? Perhaps. But with The Friend, Nunez provides evidence that, for now, it survives.
An unnamed writing professor inherits a Great Dane after the suicide of her best friend and mentor. Apollo is bewildered by the sudden loss of his master ... the professor finds herself bonding with Apollo through their shared mourning. Nunez’s story of a dog and his inadvertent caregiver is a darkly humorous and unsentimental tale of friendship, mourning, and solace.
I was gobsmacked by that startling experience of finding a writer has put your private thoughts on the page ... As Nunez renders these feelings, this is the seduction of grief, the way it tempts you to isolation, the way it tempts you away from life itself ... Nunez’s gift to her narrator, to the narrator’s massive companion, and to the reader, is not to banish loss or pretend it can ever be banished, but to take in the warmth of the sun, the lap and sparkle of the water, to allow us the time and space to breathe with the realization that these treasures still exist, even in the face of death. The Friend is one of those rare novels that, in the end, makes your heart beat slower.
For so strikingly slight a book, The Friend arrives with a lot of freight: a 2018 National Book Award in America and a clean sweep, on both sides of the Atlantic, of rapturous reviews. And it isn’t merely slight in size (200 pages of tight, stream-of-consciousness prose) but in subject...Still, within this slender package Sigrid Nunez casts judgement on a whole generation of readers, and this is why The Friend has been greeted by the critics with such a roar of gratitude ... Nunez, in a wily move, gives us a nice-as-pie story at the same time as loading her pages with quotations about writing as a weapon of mass destruction ... The Friend is a magnificently hostile act. A non-fiction novel posing as a recovery memoir, a valediction enclosing a manifesto, it is also a cute book about a Great Dane who tucks his owner up in bed, dances the cha-cha-cha and appreciates Karl Ove Knausgaard. That’s a lot of freight.
In The Friend, she takes readers on a reflective journey through a labyrinth of grief, loss and loneliness. This meditative, beautifully written novel reads as intimately as a memoir ... Humans, however, can reckon with death. This is evidenced by the narrator's intriguing stream-of-consciousness monologue that winds through the past and present, offering ruminations about the sacrifices of a truly creative life, while referencing great writers and thinkers like Flaubert, Hemingway, Coetzee et al. ... The pain of the narrator's bereavement is dealt with through remembering and writing. But the bond she forms with the dog – how they acclimate to each other and a world darkened by an aching void – forges this thought-provoking, philosophical story. Ultimately, The Friend ponders the meanings of loyalty, love, friendship and a buoyant creative spirit.
Sigrid Nunez’s sneaky gut punch of a novel, is a consummate example of the human-animal tale ... 'Find the right tone and you can write about anything,' the narrator says of her most famous predecessor in canine romance, J. R. Ackerley. The Friend’s tone is dry, clear, direct — which is the surest way to carry off this sort of close-up study of anguish and attachment. More for aesthetic than for moral reasons, the narrator gives up her attempt to write about a group of traumatized women with whom she’s been volunteering to slowly, painfully, construct instead the book we’re reading. Someone is being played here, but whether the game is at the reader’s expense or the subject’s (the dead mentor’s) remains deliberately unclear.
Nothing quite compares to a 'good boy,' except for perhaps, a good book about a "good boy." In this touching story, a woman unexpectedly takes in the dog of a friend and mentor who has died. The two navigate their grief together, as everything around them seems to unravel.
...a wholly original novel about that sacred bond ... starkly honest moments give some texture to an otherwise simple story: woman loses a mentor she might have been in love with and finds solace in a dog ... Her unnamed narrator’s journey from solitude to a shared solitude with a dog is moving, for sure, but never in an overly sentimental manner. What makes the book work is the way The Friend reflects on loss, life, and creativity in such a straightforward and bold way.
The Friend, Ms. Nunez’s seventh novel, is a beautiful book ... Cleverly packaged as yet another book about the ennobling affection of a dog, this slim volume is crammed with a world of insight into death, grief, art and love.
Is The Friend a tribute or a nail in a coffin? Nunez certainly nails a type. Though N is nothing if not generous regarding 'you'’s shortcomings, among her themes is status in the literary world, about which she’s delightfully scathing ... My Dog Tulip was a thoroughly queer book, in all the best senses. So is The Friend. It reimagines coupledom and the intimacies possible between sentient creatures ... If it’s not clear from these questions, Nunez has done something subtle and rather odd here, creating a narrator about whom the reader often feels she knows more than the narrator does about herself ... The Friend is a delicious read, but also a wrenching one.
Brilliant but informal, sad yet laugh-out-loud funny, The Friend is a digressive bumblebee of a novel that alights on aging, death, the waning power of literature and the strength of friendship. It’s a book of fragments that questions what it means to be human ... Nunez’s seventh novel is small yet rich. Replete with limpid asides on writing, writers and what it means to be a person of words in an increasingly emoji world, The Friend will appeal in particular to fans of postmodern authors such as David Markson. Talented as she is, Nunez should be better known among readers. If you’re already a fan, this beautiful, spare work will not disappoint. If you aren’t, this relevant novel is the perfect introduction.
Numerous religious references add resonance and irony to the novel ... a memoir-like quality, a plot that zig-zags on the road of real and invented, a tone that is conversational and a discursive style ... Ultimately, this novel, which is fiction about nonfiction, has many layers, perhaps too many. Yet in its essence, it is a love story.
In the riveting new novel from Nunez, the unnamed narrator thinks in the second person, addressing an unnamed old friend, a man, who has recently and unexpectedly committed suicide ... Mourning, she [the narrator] begins writing a cathartic elegy that becomes a larger meditation on writing, loss, and various forms of love ... 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.
Quietly brilliant and darkly funny, Nunez's latest novel finds her on familiar turf with an aggressively unsentimental interrogation of grief, writing, and the human-canine bond ... It is a lonely novel: rigorous and stark, so elegant — so dismissive of conventional notions of plot — it hardly feels like fiction ... Breathtaking both in pain and in beauty; a singular book.