cover image The Friend

The Friend

Sigrid Nunez. Riverhead, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1944-1

In the riveting new novel from Nunez (Salvation City), the unnamed narrator thinks in the second person, addressing an unnamed old friend, a man, who has recently and unexpectedly committed suicide. The two first met decades earlier, while she was his student, the same semester in fact, when a fellow student became “Wife One” of three. While wives and lovers have come and gone, the narrator has remained a constant, friendly intimate of the deceased, a platonic yet intense and complex relationship. Mourning, she begins writing a cathartic elegy that becomes a larger meditation on writing, loss, and various forms of love. Early in the book, Wife Three calls to ask if the narrator will take responsibility for a large Great Dane named Apollo, whom the man had found abandoned in Central Park. Despite the unexpectedness of the request, the narrator takes the dog home, and over the course of the rest of the novel, her love for Apollo both consumes and heals her. 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. (Feb.)