What caught my eye about Sigrid Nunez's The Friend was the cover: bright, geometrical, and, of course, a dog. After I took it home from the library, it was the first book I decided to read from my big stack of books. And it was somewhere between delightful and depressing — in a great way. The premise is straight-forward: a writer's mentor/close friend/once lover commits suicide, and leaves behind a Great Dane no one wants. She takes him in.
The story is of the (unnamed) narrator mourning; and how this dog, Apollo, helps her. And how she helps him. But throughout, it's a meditation on what it means to be a writer, other literary representations of dogs, and really just an ode to a loving dog ("Dog are not merely untouched by evil. They are celestial beings, angels incarnate, furry guardian spirits sent to watch over and help people live.")
There's a chapter towards the end that makes me wonder about the whole premise of the novel and about what writing fiction really means, and it works so well. It's like the writer (the narrator or the actual author of the book, you decide) is speaking to you from the page. There's a conversation in that chapter about being a professional writer and how to write in today's society.
As NPR writes, "After she reluctantly agrees to take in his traumatized, bereft dog, a massive, arthritic Great Dane, he stinks up her tiny Manhattan apartment and threatens her rent-stabilized lease — but also provides unexpected solace. 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."
For anyone who has ever mourned, written, or loved a dog. Rating: ★★★★
Get it here: https://amzn.to/2trqFLC (or at your local library!)