A female English professor and writer loses her best friend and sometimes lover to suicide. A few days later she’s asked to take over the care of his dog, an enormous Great Dane. No small ask as the writer lives in a tiny flat in a Manhattan building where dogs are prohibited. This is the plot of the otherwise plotless but strangely mesmerising The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, a story about love, loss and being an artist, which, had my flight not been over, I would have read in one sitting.
‘I am a cat person’ our narrator tells us – or more accurately – her dead friend, as she reluctantly takes responsibility of the dog. The reader is a fly on the wall listening to the narrator addressing the dog, the dead man or simply the emptiness left behind by the suicide. The mourning dog wins her over as it did me with his gigantic paws and sorry eyes. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style covering everything from dog breeding, womanising, writing, the true nature of writers and the true nature of the dead writer (who was no saint). Trite, you might think, but actually I really liked this little book and so did the jury of the National Book Award which awarded her the prize in 2018.
If you liked Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers, try this book.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez is published by Virago, 224 pages.