The Pequod Review:
Sigrid Nunez's seventh novel, The Friend, begins with the suicide of the narrator's long-time mentor and friend — a successful but unhappy novelist — and the first third of the book includes extensive meta-observations on the difficulties of being a writer. These observations are occasionally interesting — "Writers are always selling somebody out. [Writing] is an aggressive, even hostile act... the tactic of a secret bully." — but it's when the narrator adopts the novelist's orphaned dog (Apollo) that the story becomes a much richer and more personal one. Within the confines of her 500-square-foot Manhattan apartment, the narrator develops an intimacy with Apollo and considers the interior concerns of pets ("They don’t commit suicide. They don’t weep. But they can and do fall to pieces. They can and do have their hearts broken. They can and do lose their minds.”). She also connects her experiences to literature, and realizes that Rilke's definition of love ("two solitudes that protect and border and greet each other") applies not just to humans. The overall novel may not be a great one but its best parts are extremely incisive.