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The Friend

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  29,636 ratings  ·  4,412 reviews
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.

When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the d
Hardcover, 213 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Riverhead Books
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Ross It's this very question that's at the heart of the book: does something bad happen to the dog? Why do we fear that? What do we fear? And why is that s…moreIt's this very question that's at the heart of the book: does something bad happen to the dog? Why do we fear that? What do we fear? And why is that so important. Definitely read it!(less)
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Asia Groves
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Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  29,636 ratings  ·  4,412 reviews

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Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Update: Friends, as I had hoped, this novel did win the National Book Award for 2018. (See comments below where Wyndy first brought it to my attention that it was nominated.) This is such a well-deserved honour for this author and this novel - I hope the Award inspires all those who may have hesitated to read this.

Of the last four books I have read, three have been about loss and grief. It is another of those serendipities that I value as a reader and by itself gives cause for reflection.

J.L.   Sutton
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend sometimes reads like a memoir, sometimes like a letter to a friend and sometimes, in an attempt to make sense of both her friend’s death and the dog who has come to stand in for him, a philosophical inquiry. I loved it! Nunez is smart, funny and thought-provoking as she explores life, death, writing and relationships. I know this book is not for everyone. The fact that writing (and the writing life) is such a strong focus will appeal to some and turn others off. Perhaps ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: roof, pagehabit
despite my joy over twinkle lights and tiny notebooks &etc, i was apprehensive when i got this book in my quarterly literary fiction box from pagehabit. let’s just say this isn’t a good time of year for me to be reading books about suicide OR books where beloved animals might die. but this isn’t a tearjerker by any means - for a book about grief, it’s almost entirely cerebral, and most of the emotional responses to death are centered in the behavior of the dog whose master has just died.

it’s som
I loved the Great Dane, Apollo, but unfortunately couldn’t get into the book other than the sections that talked about Apollo.
Elyse  Walters
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Update... This made the 2018 National Book Awards Longlist for Fiction. ( good choice)

This was an awesome doggie good Audiobook!!!

Read by...Hillary Huber

It’s dry... it’s sly..., it’s never dull!!!!
It’s also quite beautiful and touching.
It’s about a friend, a man, a suicide, a dog, - *Apollo*- and 3 wives....
It takes place in New York... with writers and writing seminars.

There’s no escaping sadness - loss - grief and death ..., but if you love dogs and literature with great dialogue.....
4.5 Stars

”The dead dwell in the conditional, tense of the unreal. But there is also the extraordinary sense that you have become omniscient, that nothing we do or think or feel can be kept from you. The extraordinary sense that you are reading these words, that you know what they’ll say even before I write them.”

Loss, loneliness, the writing life, friendship, grieving, memories, love in all its various forms, between people, and with our pets - in this story, with a dog. But not just any dog
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Update: Bumping my rating down to 2 stars. The more I think about it the more I don't think the author's intentions were executed well.


This book was a miss for me, but I’ve decided not to rate this 2 stars since I think that’s just a matter of my personal preference rather than the objective quality of the book. It’s less of a story and more a string of musings about literature, life, and death, and how interconnected they can be. The book aims to be thought-provoking but I did not feel moved
Diane S ☔
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 Loss and loneliness are the main themes explored in this novel about friendship and the life of writing. When a woman loses her best friend and mentor to suicide she tries to understand his actions, deal with the loss of this person, and takes on the responsibility of caring for his aged, Great Dane, named Apollo. Apollo is grieving the loss of his former friend and master, and so together they travel a new road.

The writing is elegant, spare, recalling literary entities who were also focused
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
A meditation on writing, grief, and friendship, The Friend follows an unnamed woman as she comes to terms with an old friend's suicide and struggles to take care of the dog he has left behind. The novel is narrated from the woman's perspective, and each of its twelve chapters consists of a series of fragments addressing a wide array of subjects. The flimsy plot in fact feels merely like a jumping-off point for philosophical contemplation; the narrator discusses at length the ethics of animal own ...more
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, 2019-reads
Worst blurb ever:

”...a moving story about love, friendship, grief, healing and the magical bond between a woman and her dog.”

I’m not sure the person who wrote the blurb actually read the book.

The book was much more about writing and the writerly life than it was a book about grief and the magical bond between a woman and her dog. I found certain passages beautifully written, but I didn't enjoy the book as a whole. There were some brilliant passages about the dog every once in a while, which dem
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I almost bailed on this a couple of times, but it is short and has gotten such critical acclaim that I decided to power through. There is a thin story about a woman grief-stricken over the death of a friend and how she cares for his dog. But a lot of the book is just ramblings about various topics. There is also a lot of whining about how tough it is to be a writer and the state of literature today and how everybody thinks they can write, etc. 🙄
Michael Ferro
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
THE FRIEND by Sigrid Nunez is quite simply one of the best personal narrative novels I've come across concerning dogs and writing. In the same vein as MY DOG TULIP, Nunez alternates philosophizing between her literary musings and the unexpected care she must bestow upon a massive great dane. As a dog lover, I am a sucker for any good dog book, but Nunez's focus not only on the physical complications of a huge dog in tiny spaces, but also upon the heavy philosophical questions that arise for many ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 21-ce, fiction, us, new-york
A gem. A woman writer’s distinguished writer friend, a great philanderer, discovers that young women are no longer physically attracted to him and kills himself. The woman is then saddled with her late friend’s dog, a Great Dane called Apollo. The novel in its early stages reads in part like a response to The Dying Animal by Philip Roth, but richer, each sentence stabbing yet buoyant. The prose is achingly beautiful. Set in a peculiarly literary present day New York with fascinating allusions to ...more
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very me book. I'm sure plenty of people will read it and think "eh, that was fine but nothing special." But for me, Nunez gets closer to capturing the essence of grief and friendship than any author I can remember in a long time. ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-favorites
Wow. Finally. This novel (that doesn’t feel like a novel) strikes three major chords. It made me laugh, ignited my mind and touched my heart.

Quote: Your whole house smells of dog, says someone who comes to visit. I say I'll take care of it. Which I do by never inviting that person to visit again.
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even after its National Book Award win I was hesitant to pick up The Friend, which I feared would be saccharine and emotionally manipulative, the two reasons I tend to avoid books about animals. Mercifully it was nothing of the sort, and it was in fact nothing at all like I was expecting, but I was utterly enchanted by it.

The Friend follows an unnamed narrator whose best friend has just committed suicide, and in the midst of processing her own grief she's entreated to look after her friend's dog
Feb 12, 2018 rated it did not like it

Normally I would never review a book I didn't finish. Actually, I normally would never not finish a book. However, I hated this book so much that I had no choice. If you want to read about a main character who is mourning a sad older white man who takes advantage of his students and then justifies it because it's the women's fault because they have all the power, or read about how much harder it is to be a writer than a sex traffic victim, then this is for you. Also, the main character reads
Carol (Bookaria)
This was an excellent book about grief, dogs, New York, and writers. Lots of writers!

I absolutely loved it and read it in two sittings, it's short and there's never a dull moment. It's all about the characters, specially the narrator, her thoughts on many subjects, from writing workshops to technology in novels, all types of ruminations, this is what made the book exceptional.

Definitely one the the best books I've read this year, it was different, fresh, wonderful, even with its somber tone. Hig
Diane Barnes
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Let me say right up front that if you need a plot, find another book to read. The bare bones of this novel consists of an unnamed older woman, whose unnamed male friend commits suicide, and she adopts his Great Dane, named Apollo, to keep him from being destroyed. The only suspense being whether she will be evicted from her rent-controlled apartment because they don't allow dogs.

Having said that, my next comment is that I loved this book! Musings and ramblings on so many different subjects: dogs
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Nadine!
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez is a finalist for the National Book Award. I first heard about it from Nadine, a guest on Episode 129 of the Reading Envy Podcast. I enjoyed the themes of the novel - grief, friendship, dogs, writing - but more than that I appreciated the style, which felt like fiction as essay or autobiographical fiction, more musings than plot. My kind of read. ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Possibly the most 3.5 book I have ever read. This might not make much sense but: I loved the sentences in The Friend but I didn't love The Friend. I thought it was beautifully crafted and fairly unique (reminded me a bit of Rachel Cusk at times) but just didn't land as it has elsewhere. I felt it tried to do something interesting and succeeded but I'm still not sure just what that something was. ...more
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Friend is aptly titled. On a limited level, it is about the friendship between a nameless female narrator and her former writing professor with whom she had a romantic attachment that morphed into a companionable lifetime friendship. On a more significant level, it is about her relationship with a harlequin Great Dane, Apollo, who became her dog when her friend died suddenly. Wife number 3 of the deceased pretty much thrust the care of this 180-pound greatness upon her, and it is amazing to ...more
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall I enjoyed this short novel (~200 pages). While I was reading it, I turned to the first pages before the actual novel where the information about the book is (what edition it is, who publishes it, etc.) to determine if this was a memoir or a work of fiction. It sure read like a memoir, but it was labeled as fiction. I wonder if it was semi-memoirish. I don’t think it’s auto-fiction? Maybe there is not a name for it. Maybe it is pseudo-memoir. Maybe I should just move on to the review! 🙃

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
True story: once many years back, and together with my brother Paul, I had breakfast in a hotel on the table next to Bjarne Riis (1996 Tour de France winner turned cycle team owner).

So this book felt very meaningful to me as I know all about sharing mourning rituals with Great Dane.

However it is one I was always put off reading by a misconception that the book was solely about animals and grief, and (based on what I know now to be a classic in incorrect book review headlines) a review in the Iri
I had too many problems with this book to give it more than three stars, but there is a twist at the end that I liked a lot. This turned the book around for me. In the story, a woman tells of a man who commits suicide. It is interesting to toy with the idea of who exactly is the friend in the title. I am not going to spoil the book by giving more away.

I do not think the GR book description accurately describes the book; it leads you in the wrong direction. The central focus is about the art of
This book is unlike any I’ve read before and I must admit it didn’t keep my interest like I thought it would. Yes, it was a well written book there is no doubting that, but I just couldn’t get into it and that was probably more to do with me than the book.

Apollo the Great Dane who is pictured on the front cover of course was my favorite character. A story about friendship, heartache and loneliness. I’m not going to say a lot more about this book only to say give it a go as I’m sure you’ll enjoy
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The Friend" is a rarity, a novel that is wistful and elegiac, but also rich with gentle humor. It's the story of a woman, her literary mentor who kills himself, a tiny apartment...and an aging Great Dane. I loved that dog. I think any dog (or cat) lover will. And I loved Sigrid Nunez's novel, with its explorations of the bonds between humans and our closest animal companions, and its digressions into books and movies we know. ...more
Peter Boyle
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-reads-2019
"You can't explain death. And love deserves better than that."

If I read a book on my tablet, I like to highlight the lines and paragraphs that I find clever or move me in some way. My copy of The Friend is strewn with such highlights - looking over them now, my heart is full. It's a while since I've found a novel so laden with intelligence and true emotional insight.

The unnamed narrator, a writing professor based in New York, is in mourning. Her best friend and mentor has committed suicide. Out
Jennifer Tam
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is literally one of the beat books I have ever read - I want to keep reading it over and over again and probably will! I can’t even describe how beautiful I found it!
j e w e l s
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio

For all you literary types out there, THE FRIEND is a philosophical and critical look at readers and writers. Also, there is a dog story woven throughout this tale of friendship and grief. However, this is not really a dog story. So, don't pick it up thinking this is a Marley and Me tale--it sure as hell is not.

It is more like a series of essays, meditations, ponderings on the mind of a writer--their struggles and triumphs---a topic that endlessly fascinates me. It's not a book for eve
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Sigrid Nunez has published seven novels, including A Feather on the Breath of God, The Last of Her Kind, Salvation City, and, most recently, The Friend. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. Among the journals to which she has contributed are The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, Threepenny Review, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Th ...more

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“What we miss - what we lose and what we mourn - isn't it this that makes us who, deep down, we truly are. To say nothing of what we wanted in life but never got to have.” 53 likes
“Consider rereading, how risky it is, especially when the book is one that you loved. Always the chance that it won't hold up, that you might, for whatever reason, not love it as much. When this happens, and to me it happens all the time (and more and more as I get older), the effect is so disheartening that I now open old favorites warily.” 41 likes
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