Of the many, many things that have fallen by the wayside, we are now picking back up again our Wonder Pens Reads. I had meant to get onto this: there had been real, actual delays and then many more self-constructed delays, but I am back. For (January-) March, we have The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez.


After the suicide of the narrator’s mentor, she reluctantly adopts his Great Dane. She navigates and contemplates taking care of a dog and the friendship of a dog and that unique relationship, but the book is much more than that.


It’s a beauty of a book that is not quite the traditional heartstring pulling book about dogs and their owners, although there is that, the magical relationship between dogs and humans. The narrator of the story is a novelist and a teacher, and she ruminates on writing and reading and the generations to come and how they look at writing and how they write and read themselves. On relationships, and her relationship with her mentor as well as with her students and the relationships of people around her. Slow pieces of life unravel. The narrator goes back and forth, before and after the dog. Thoughts and perspectives on grief and loss and change that is wedged between the everyday of maneuvering a large dog around a disgruntled landlord and the vet.


The writing is almost careful but mostly meditative, musing, a meandering walk through the writing life and life itself. The sentences are taut and intentional, each line direct and bringing you forth. It’s a short book, just over 200 pages, and one that moves quickly, but still sort of sits with you as you go. There is one scene where she reads aloud to the dog that has entered reluctantly into her life. She reads Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke, and the dog listens, and then there is contemplation of it all.


There is, apparently, an element of autobiography to this book, which makes sense. The book is a contemplation of loss and writing, friendship, the idealism of telling stories and how we tell them.


As always, all of our Wonder Pens picks come with a special notecard.




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March 04, 2021 — Liz Chan

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