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A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a commo A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own. In What Are You Going Through, Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight to a novel about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.


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A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a commo A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own. In What Are You Going Through, Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight to a novel about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.

30 review for What Are You Going Through

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I absolutely love Sigrid Nunez!!!!! UPDATE: Audiobook....read by Hillary Nunez A short 5 hour audiobook that I listened to in a one day sweep, yesterday....hiking and then warm water pool soaking. It was impossible to put down. One of my favorite books this year!!!! Sigrid Nunez should win another national award for it....as she did in “The Friend”. The audiobook is excellent. My only regret is I’m now sick: lungs headache, and chills.....from ignoring the air quality risks. STUPID STUPID ME! I shoul I absolutely love Sigrid Nunez!!!!! UPDATE: Audiobook....read by Hillary Nunez A short 5 hour audiobook that I listened to in a one day sweep, yesterday....hiking and then warm water pool soaking. It was impossible to put down. One of my favorite books this year!!!! Sigrid Nunez should win another national award for it....as she did in “The Friend”. The audiobook is excellent. My only regret is I’m now sick: lungs headache, and chills.....from ignoring the air quality risks. STUPID STUPID ME! I should never have spent 5 hours outside with our environmental conditions. So keeping this short....( I just wrote another review- and with my head pounding - I’m spent)... On top of that my kindle died this morning. HOURS on the phone with Amazon LOCATING the 3 year warranty. SIX PEOPLE I HAD TO TALK WITH.... BUT FINALLY THEY FOUND MY extended warranty purchase. Whew! So....a little - finally good news - in a basically one crappy day. Bad time to write a review of a book I soooooo LOVE..... The best thing I can say....is JUST READ IT. ....or.... LISTEN TO IT as I did The blurb is all that’s needed.... but for me.... One of the most affecting conversations was about the dying woman’s relationship with her daughter....( her only child), and their long standing troubled relationship. I agreed with the dying women’s choices not to include her with her death journey....( although she was the beneficiary of her will), - but damn - it’s sad. And....I’m not just talking about death.....rather the many years of hopelessness. Soooo powerful..... ( funny bone laughs too - an Airbnb scene - the farty- ex-Professor ......good laughs and eye rolling scenes too) I felt like I was in the same room with the unnamed narrator and her friend while they were talking and planning their days ahead.

  2. 4 out of 5

    WILLIAM2

    A dark book but not without humor of the gallows variety. Touches, I think, on the darkness we find in Thomas Bernhard—that is high praise—at times verging on but never quite getting to the full Bernhardian rant. But bleak, bleak. Just my sort of thing. There’s no description of individuals, except in the briefest functional terms, just action, dialogue, and thought. There’s a talking cat, but this may be a dream of the narrator’s. At any rate it made me think of Natsume Soseki’s I Am a Cat. Int A dark book but not without humor of the gallows variety. Touches, I think, on the darkness we find in Thomas Bernhard—that is high praise—at times verging on but never quite getting to the full Bernhardian rant. But bleak, bleak. Just my sort of thing. There’s no description of individuals, except in the briefest functional terms, just action, dialogue, and thought. There’s a talking cat, but this may be a dream of the narrator’s. At any rate it made me think of Natsume Soseki’s I Am a Cat. Interestingly, too, the book has its thumb in current events. But not in a relentlessly Monica Ali way. The main story is of two writers, one of whom is dying; the other, a friend, is our narrator. No one’s named, just as no one’s described. The dying woman wants a suicide vacation. The narrator is talked into it. A beach house is rented through Airbnb from jet setting elders. The terminal one forgets her pills; they drive back to the city, get the drugs and return to the beach house. There’s another plot line, if we can call it that, which introduces the narrator’s ex, who lectures on the unlikelihood of our continuation as a species. He’s eschatological but without the religion. His arguments are steeped in science and logic. He’s quite a pistol. The dying woman—said to be based on Susan Sontag—is cruel, and she wonders why she raised such a cruel (estranged) daughter. My thought is the fruit never falls far from the tree. Now the dying woman is reviewing her life as the narrator listens. “You want to forgive all, my friend said, and you should forgive all. But you discover that some things you can’t forgive, not even when you know you’re dying. And then that becomes its own open wound, she said: the inability to forgive.” (p. 163) If it is at times gruesome, it is entertainingly so.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    This is a Rachel Cusk-esque brain twister slapping us with the fact that yes, we are all going to die. Playing on themes similar to her bestseller The Friend, Nunez gives us a first-person narrator who visits a friend with terminal cancer. While at the beginning, the novel reflects conversations with various people and stories the narrator encounters and recalls, all centering on the passage of time, grief and regret, the destiny of the cancer-stricken friend slowly emerges as the main narrative This is a Rachel Cusk-esque brain twister slapping us with the fact that yes, we are all going to die. Playing on themes similar to her bestseller The Friend, Nunez gives us a first-person narrator who visits a friend with terminal cancer. While at the beginning, the novel reflects conversations with various people and stories the narrator encounters and recalls, all centering on the passage of time, grief and regret, the destiny of the cancer-stricken friend slowly emerges as the main narrative thread that will, around the middle of the text, set in motion a course of events that questions the meaning of death and by that, the meaning of life. The text certainly requires a reader with some patience for complex story-within-story-within-a-story constructions that call for some work in order to establish parallels and juxtapostitions on the main themes. The effort pays off though, because it's the variety that conveys the complexity of the human experience - and in the end, this is also a book about the power of stories, mainly those which are shared from person to person. The narrator also refers to famous thinkers and artists to ponder issues like sadness and compassion - the titular question "What are you going through" can be found numerous times in the text, contemplating the ability (or inability) to grasp how another person feels, in how far we can empathize with experiences outside ourselves. Nunez particularly looks at the experiences of women, their specific roles and challenges, and the versions of sadness they undergo as a result. A smart, haunting little book with an experimental feel that in all its wisdom is not easy to stomach.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    In What Are You Going Through, the narrator encounters the phenomenon that sometimes happens as you get older where you are past forming new relationships and your old ones have moved and changed. One friend is approaching death from cancer and she captures the absurdity and how a person changes during that journey so well - this is not a Lifetime movie. At the same time I'm having a hard time letting this stick to my bones - it's probably too close to my actual experiences to feel all that memor In What Are You Going Through, the narrator encounters the phenomenon that sometimes happens as you get older where you are past forming new relationships and your old ones have moved and changed. One friend is approaching death from cancer and she captures the absurdity and how a person changes during that journey so well - this is not a Lifetime movie. At the same time I'm having a hard time letting this stick to my bones - it's probably too close to my actual experiences to feel all that memorable. I see truth here but it's truth I already know. Which in the end is a bit of a strange reading experience. I had a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. This came out September 8, and I wanted to read it because I really loved her last book, The Friend. The style and themes are really quite similar but if I were to recommend a starting place it would be The Friend first.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    A resonant, powerful, and unconventional novel, which barely possesses a plot. The writing is clean and unpretentious. Nunez writes about difficult truths and possibly the most difficult of experiences: accompanying a dying person. There really are times when nothing we can say or nothing others can say to us can make a situation better. I found this an intense reading experience, and, short as the book is, I was relieved to reach the end. The reader is committed to and endures the experience, m A resonant, powerful, and unconventional novel, which barely possesses a plot. The writing is clean and unpretentious. Nunez writes about difficult truths and possibly the most difficult of experiences: accompanying a dying person. There really are times when nothing we can say or nothing others can say to us can make a situation better. I found this an intense reading experience, and, short as the book is, I was relieved to reach the end. The reader is committed to and endures the experience, much as the narrator does. A couple of quotations from the novel: “We talk glibly about finding the right words, but about the most important things, those words we never find. We put the words down as they must be put down, one after the other, but that is not life, that is not death, one word after the other, no, that is not right at all. No matter how hard we try to put the most important things into words, it is always like toe-dancing in clogs.” “how hard it was for people to accept reality”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    If, as Shakespeare wrote, life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," then what is the meaning of life and why tell the tale at all? The unmarried and childless narrator of Sigrid Nunez's latest book, who has reached the age where death is a possibility, reflects on it this way: "The writers who believe that the way they write is more important than whatever they may write about-these are the only writers I want to read anymore, the only ones who can lift me up. If, as Shakespeare wrote, life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," then what is the meaning of life and why tell the tale at all? The unmarried and childless narrator of Sigrid Nunez's latest book, who has reached the age where death is a possibility, reflects on it this way: "The writers who believe that the way they write is more important than whatever they may write about-these are the only writers I want to read anymore, the only ones who can lift me up." Using that criteria, Sigrid Nunez's book lifted me up. This book can be read as a companion piece to her last book, The Friend, which was about a writer grieving the death of a fellow writer. Death looms large in this book as well. The narrator's good friend, who is very estranged from her own daughter, is dying of cancer. A request will be made and honored. And by doing so, the narrator will understand more about herself and her own mortality. For those of us who have lived more years than we have allotted for the future, there are many pithy observations. In between the forward propulsion of the narrator and her friend, there are gems about so many things: the sadness of once being a beautiful woman and now just being old, the falsity of language in describing transformative moments, the incredulity of once knowing someone well and realizing that life has gone on and you really know very little about that person. The book is interspersed with tales: of being roped into visits with a crabby shut-in neighbor to alleviate the worries of her son, a cat's tormented tale of its life before adoption, for example. This narrator, like the one in The Friend who is similarly unmarried and alone, derives meaning from connection - not with a dog (as in the Friend) but with a dying friend. Yet the book is not grim; rather, it fully captures the richness of living in ordinary moments and the humanity that connects us all. Sigrid Nunez, in explaining her title, quotes Simone Weil, who wrote, "the love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him, "What are you going through?" Wryly, she says that the question becomes more powerful in French: "Que est ton tourment?" It is a question, she suggests, that ties us together.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I stress-read The Friend because I was worried about the dog, so it was nice to settle into this. It has the kind of meandering interiority I love and frankly, any book that gives voice to the cat mid-chapter is a book I want to read. This got a lot of Cusk comparisons but all that talk of dying and what it means to have a good death reminded me of Beauvoir’s A Very Easy Death.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Will

    4.5, rounded up

  9. 4 out of 5

    Possibly in Michigan, London

    4.5 I probably wouldn’t have started reading this if I knew it was about terminal illness and euthanasia but erm, I’m glad I did? Love the narratorial voice - felt v autofictional but also fleshy at the same time. Lots of thoughts about death and changing feelings which felt situated in experience/the story’s moment rather than written to be quoted Would love to know if the anti-natalist ex is David Rieff? Recognised the (quite mean) portrait of Jean Stein, who at least had good taste in assistan 4.5 I probably wouldn’t have started reading this if I knew it was about terminal illness and euthanasia but erm, I’m glad I did? Love the narratorial voice - felt v autofictional but also fleshy at the same time. Lots of thoughts about death and changing feelings which felt situated in experience/the story’s moment rather than written to be quoted Would love to know if the anti-natalist ex is David Rieff? Recognised the (quite mean) portrait of Jean Stein, who at least had good taste in assistants (both Nunez and Ottessa Moshfegh?!)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    A novel in conversations, this reminded me a lot Rachel Cusk's Outline trilogy and the recent Topics of Conversation. Our female protagonist visits a friend who has cancer, and while early conversations are between people she encounters on this trip - her Airbnb host, a stranger she meets near her apartment - the latter parts of the book are made up of discussions with said friend she is visiting. I think readers who enjoyed the other books I've mentioned as well as Nunez's last offering (The Fri A novel in conversations, this reminded me a lot Rachel Cusk's Outline trilogy and the recent Topics of Conversation. Our female protagonist visits a friend who has cancer, and while early conversations are between people she encounters on this trip - her Airbnb host, a stranger she meets near her apartment - the latter parts of the book are made up of discussions with said friend she is visiting. I think readers who enjoyed the other books I've mentioned as well as Nunez's last offering (The Friend) will find something to enjoy here. The writing is smart and the observations often poignant without verging on sentimentality, particularly those about death and dying. Fair warning that there is a brief segment with a talking cat (in cat that isn't your thing). Thank you Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Sigrid Nunez has a talent for writing deep introspective works claiming to be novels, but which address so much, presenting them against backgrounds that give gravitas to the matters. The framework here is a writer who has agreed to remain at a friend's side as that friend faces her cancer-driven mortality. But there are so many threads interwoven through a ill-attended lecture, many conversations that end up being meaningful with people who leave the stage soon after, and of course, between the Sigrid Nunez has a talent for writing deep introspective works claiming to be novels, but which address so much, presenting them against backgrounds that give gravitas to the matters. The framework here is a writer who has agreed to remain at a friend's side as that friend faces her cancer-driven mortality. But there are so many threads interwoven through a ill-attended lecture, many conversations that end up being meaningful with people who leave the stage soon after, and of course, between the two unnamed protagonists -- conversations about the big issues of today between two friends of such long standing that you'd think they had nothing more to say to one another. Proof of the enduring power of long time friendship.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Blankfein

    A unique story about a woman, her interactions with others, her relationships and how they change over time. Thoughtful and thought provoking with wonderful observations and humor as it presents itself, Sigrid Nunez shows us her wonderful writing once again. Full review to come on Book Nation by Jen.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Hicks

    Nunez quotes Simone Weil, “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, ‘What are you going through?’” But she could have just as easily quoted Sartre, “Hell is other people.” Nunez conveys the daily anguish of attempting to communicate with those around her, from her character’s most intimate friends to total strangers. None of the characters are named. The main character is merely “the woman” and the other characters defined according to her relationship with hyp Nunez quotes Simone Weil, “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, ‘What are you going through?’” But she could have just as easily quoted Sartre, “Hell is other people.” Nunez conveys the daily anguish of attempting to communicate with those around her, from her character’s most intimate friends to total strangers. None of the characters are named. The main character is merely “the woman” and the other characters defined according to her relationship with hyphen. And isn’t that remarkably spot on about the human condition? In many ways, the people and places we know cease to exist when we aren’t interacting with them. The lack of character names serves to anonymize them, while making their relationship to the main character somehow more meaningful. That same lack foregrounds the reader’s empathy and encourages us to identify with the character. Furthermore, the writer quotes extensively from philosophers and other thinkers. The novel is grounded with all the weight of historical minds, while sharply contrasting with the nameless characters. We know the details about these dead people, but have to strain to tease apart the complexities of the fictional characters.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    Thoughts on helping a friend through cancer. Very readable and compelling. Memory, companionship, friendship. All characters are unnamed. Makes the experience more personal. One of these people could be me. Thoughts of death - which I am sure we all have. Many quotable quotes p. 27 Flaubert: To think is to suffer. Aristotle: To perceive is to suffer. Hitchcock: Always make the audience suffer as much as possible. Sylvester the Cat: Sufferin' succotash. 5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Rotter

    Sigrid Nunez has fashioned a novel that takes on unanticipated meaning in these pandemic days of distance from friends and strangers alike. The reader is back in a world where it is possible and usual to interact with acquaintances face to face . It is possible but less usual to find a relationship deepening in a surprisingly intimate direction and to a level that challenges each person's humanity. The Friend shows relationship through one prism. What You Are Going Through moves to a different v Sigrid Nunez has fashioned a novel that takes on unanticipated meaning in these pandemic days of distance from friends and strangers alike. The reader is back in a world where it is possible and usual to interact with acquaintances face to face . It is possible but less usual to find a relationship deepening in a surprisingly intimate direction and to a level that challenges each person's humanity. The Friend shows relationship through one prism. What You Are Going Through moves to a different view and the reader is well rewarded by minimal foreknowledge of the goings on.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I wish I could talk about this book with someone who's read it. Like most books about dying, it leaves you feeling unmoored and adrift in existential thoughts. Nunez had distilled this extremely layered experience of watching a loved one suffer illness and decide to die into a short volume that is as affecting as it is brief. Oh and there's a section from the viewpoint of a cat so...points for that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Not a fan. I think it was the weird organization of the story and lack of a flowing plot. I get what the author is trying to do. I just didn’t care for it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    Sigrid Nunez's new book features an unnamed and undescribed narrator's conversations and interactions with a number of people she comes in contact with. People in her apartment building, people at her gym, random people that she meets, an ex-lover. I say the narrator is undescribed but we know she is a writer in late middle age and she's having trouble writing. She gathers these stories of the people that she talks with and perhaps if she's lucky, they will someday evolve into a narrative that t Sigrid Nunez's new book features an unnamed and undescribed narrator's conversations and interactions with a number of people she comes in contact with. People in her apartment building, people at her gym, random people that she meets, an ex-lover. I say the narrator is undescribed but we know she is a writer in late middle age and she's having trouble writing. She gathers these stories of the people that she talks with and perhaps if she's lucky, they will someday evolve into a narrative that the writer can put on paper. The main conversation, or series of conversations, that she has is with a friend who is terminally ill with cancer. The friend had fought cancer for years and had been in remission for a while but now the disease has come back and the medical profession holds out no hope for her recovery. The friend has decided to take her own life but she wants someone to be with her or at least be in the next room when she does it. She has chosen the narrator as that person and asks her to be present in the house when she takes the pills that will see her out. Well, what would you do in such circumstances? Do you acquiesce to the friend's request or do you say no? Either answer offers a moral conundrum and possible pitfalls, including, of course, the chance that you might be charged as an accessory or even for manslaughter if the police misconstrue the circumstances of the friend's death. The narrator weighs all of this and eventually decides to aid her friend. The friend will leave a note explaining that she is committing suicide on her own and without help from anyone and the narrator will just be present in another room of the house. And so we get the narrator relating her conversations and interactions over a period of time with her dying friend. Meanwhile, her friend searches for a house in which to end her life, preferably in a blue state. Yes, the political divide is a consideration even in this final decision. The action takes place in the current time and there are takes on the influence of Fox News especially on the elderly who watch it all day and on the #MeToo movement. The narrator talks to an elderly neighbor who opines that the country really dodged a bullet by failing to elect Hillary Clinton who she describes as "brazenly immoral and corrupt, a person who lied with every breath and was a complete incompetent to boot"! Her son worries that Fox has planted a chip in her brain. Then there is the discovery that Albert Einstein was prone to racist stereotyping in his private writing and was likely abusive to his wife and the narrator's friend remarks, "So I guess there goes the theory of relativity." In Nunez's previous book, The Friend, (which was wonderful) a big dog was on the cover and a central part of the story. In this one, there is a cat. The cat narrates its own story of being abandoned in a dumpster and then rescued to live a life of luxury with its savior. This is a novel about facing death and, as such, it has an air of sorrow about it, but at times it is also laugh-out-loud funny. When the friends rent an Airbnb in New England for the final scene, slapstick hilarity occasionally breaks out and they come to refer to it as a sitcom called "Lucy and Ethel Do Euthanasia." In fact, the title seems appropriate. This book feels very personal, almost as if the author has some experience with such a situation, or perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Nunez is a sensitive and talented writer with imagination to spare, so perhaps she's merely imagined what it would be like and she has written it so brilliantly that the reader, too, can feel what it must be like to be in such a situation. At one point, the narrator says, "The real reason I had agreed to help my friend was that I knew that, in her place, I would have hoped to be able to do exactly what she now wanted to do. I would not be able to escape the feeling that this was all a kind of rehearsal, that my friend was showing me the way." And that is exactly what good literature like this book does: It shows us the way to live humanely and with honor.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    “According to my high school English teacher there are two kinds of novels. Half of them could be called “crime and punishment” and the other half could be called “a love story”. But when you think about it, a lot of novels could be both. Crime and punishment: a love story. Now that’s a good title. Anyway, don’t they say that every good story is a suspense story? And every story is a love story. And every love story is a ghost story. And everybody loves sometime.” . . Sigrid Nunez is back fresh off “According to my high school English teacher there are two kinds of novels. Half of them could be called “crime and punishment” and the other half could be called “a love story”. But when you think about it, a lot of novels could be both. Crime and punishment: a love story. Now that’s a good title. Anyway, don’t they say that every good story is a suspense story? And every story is a love story. And every love story is a ghost story. And everybody loves sometime.” . . Sigrid Nunez is back fresh off her national book award for “the friend” which was my favorite book that year, and again she has created a book worthy of making you think, to sit back and examine your life and ask yourself “what are you going through?” Bc aren’t we all just going through something? Life? Love? Loss? Death? Dying? Friendships? Romance? It’s all a giant ball of emotions rolled into one talking point that we must force upon someone who most of the time, has their own problems to worry about. This is society, this is our lives . . We follow the narrator as she listens to people complain, or vent, or just talk. A friend with cancer, a random man whose mother lives in her apartment complex, her ex who damns the planet and says a lot of things that make you scratch your head and say hmmm isn’t this all happening to our environment RIGHT NOW? However, no one seems to concerned with what she is going through. The bonds of friendship and love are crossed in this novel and hard tasks are asked to be managed but it’s also a deep reflection on the society we live in, the one we all seem so happy with these artificial connections that are mostly metaphysical and surface level. A pill you take when sick and then put back on the shelf behind the mirror in your medicine cabinet. Just give Nunez the book of the year award again already, shit give her the Pulitzer while you’re at it, no modern day English language writer better encapsulates the human emotions and the reality of what we all don’t want to hear better than her, all while citing lovely quotes and inspiration from writers both past and present, a pure joy to read, an honest breath of fresh air

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Sigrid Nunez, who are you and where have you been all my life? This slim almost novella clicked all the boxes for me: first-person narrator/observer, female friendship, and "older" age. The unnamed narrator visits a friend who is in a cancer ward in an unknown city; not a really close friend, but a longtime friend. What unfolds through the book, which discusses everything from nostalgia to ex lovers to books and old movies, leads the reader to think about end of life and what is waiting at the en Sigrid Nunez, who are you and where have you been all my life? This slim almost novella clicked all the boxes for me: first-person narrator/observer, female friendship, and "older" age. The unnamed narrator visits a friend who is in a cancer ward in an unknown city; not a really close friend, but a longtime friend. What unfolds through the book, which discusses everything from nostalgia to ex lovers to books and old movies, leads the reader to think about end of life and what is waiting at the end and beyond. This book is going to stay with me for a while, I thought about it on my walk today and know I'll be thinking about it for some time. Excellent, and I'm going to seek out more of her books. And note the no question mark in the title. Is it a question or a statement? That got me thinking too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐀𝐧 𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐩𝐬𝐞 𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐝𝐞: 𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐨𝐨 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐛𝐞 𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐬. This truly is a smart book, as summarized the narrator describes “a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life.” These aren’t stories about people dying with dignity, or mothering their difficult (now adult) child with ease and flawless devotion. Characters are pissed off to be stricken w via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐀𝐧 𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐩𝐬𝐞 𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐝𝐞: 𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐨𝐨 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐛𝐞 𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐬. This truly is a smart book, as summarized the narrator describes “a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life.” These aren’t stories about people dying with dignity, or mothering their difficult (now adult) child with ease and flawless devotion. Characters are pissed off to be stricken with terminal cancer, or aging without grace. Let’s face it, despite commercials and stories to the contrary, age is often a lonely island, that person in the mirror, if you’re brave enough to confront them, can look like a terrifying, rotting creature. For the emotions our narrator’s friend is dealing with alone, I give this book four stars. It’s not generally like the movies, where people come to accept their cancer (or other illnesses) with grace and almost religious fervor. It is monstrously painful, some sick cosmic joke or betrayal. Come to think of it, old age too starts to feel like a horror story. Maybe it’s different if you have buckets of money to maintain your youth, I’ll never know. “What a nasty trick life had played on her”, I think that is the saddest story ever told! People need to talk, the dam inside of us has to find its release and the writer in this book is an outlet. That we can find humor in our human suffering because “if you don’t laugh you’ll cry” can be applied to nearly everything the universe dumps on us. Life is made of beautiful things- sure but there will be disappointments, ingrates, liars, heartbreaks, affairs, illnesses, exasperating children, torment, pain and general chaos that we likely will never understand. It is almost an obligation for being alive, suffering unpredictable torments. It’s made so much worse when people with ‘good intentions’ try to make light of one’s pain, rather than just giving them the space to endure it, bitterly or not. There are repulsive, slightly threatening encounters women tell expressing what it feels like to be a woman from being subjected to catcalls to being invisible. Beauty, ugliness, youth, age nothing holds steady, not for anyone. When the friend from her youth makes a request, it’s bigger than she imagined, no longer can she remain the audience. It’s as if life has completed a strange circle, a conversation that began in her college years coming to fruition. It may well be an experience that “shows her the way”, a unique adventure. I chuckled about the becoming a better person through yoga reflections, someone had to say it. What smacked me is the idea of a life lived in health dragging out the agony of disease. Life and it’s horrific ironies! Time that drags or speeds away, hostilities, memories, pity, and the happiness of childhood- so much to rehash, all of it rushing back towards the end. I laughed a lot reading the stories about everyone she encounters, but I often felt a mean pinch in my heart because some of the telling is painfully sad. I wonder if I would have read this book the same if I were younger, I feel like having been wrung out in life makes it far easier to relate to the intelligence within, even when it thumbs its nose at wisdom, it manages to be wise. How is it I have never read this author’s sharp writing before? I enjoyed being her audience. Published September 8, 2020 Available Now Penguin Group Riverhead Books

  22. 5 out of 5

    Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)

    I was ill-prepared for how bleak this novel was going to be. Sigrid Nunez’s newest book is a deeply confronting novel on mortality, ageing and loneliness. Through the eyes of an unnamed woman, you follow her daily interactions, conversations with people and in particular, a close friend of hers battling terminal cancer. In terms of plot, it’s a very slim narrative arc, primarily focussing on the interactions between the narrator and her friend, incidents from their lives, and her interactions wi I was ill-prepared for how bleak this novel was going to be. Sigrid Nunez’s newest book is a deeply confronting novel on mortality, ageing and loneliness. Through the eyes of an unnamed woman, you follow her daily interactions, conversations with people and in particular, a close friend of hers battling terminal cancer. In terms of plot, it’s a very slim narrative arc, primarily focussing on the interactions between the narrator and her friend, incidents from their lives, and her interactions with her ex-partner. This novel is almost the perfect amalgamation of Rachel Cusk’s Outline, Jenny Offill’s Weather and Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. The conversational format and a protagonist who is an excellent listener felt reminiscent of Outline. The doom and gloom of the world we inhabit today, commentary on the climate crisis and politics, particularly from the viewpoint of the ex-partner brought to mind, Weather. And the general commentary on ageing, loneliness and overwrought relationships is thematically comparable to Olive Kitteridge. Though there are faint glimmers of humour, I did find my mood dampen every time I set this book down. I don’t mean that as criticism, rather, it goes to show just how affecting the text was. It’s the kind of novel, that in the hands of a younger writer could have been rather clumsy and attention-seeking, but with Nunez, you can sense such an assured maturity and clarity of approach. It’s a clear distillation of a wealth of life experiences, the thrills and disappointments, the heartaches and happiness, explored with such luminous insight. Nunez is undeniably intelligent with a very profound understanding of the human condition, but to me personally, I’m not sure I really enjoyed the reading experience. Maybe it’s general fatigue of books that explore the hopelessness of the world or possibly it’s one that’ll resonate with me few decades down the line than now in my late twenties.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erin Glover

    Nunez is a beautiful writer, but I could not get into this novel. The characters were simply uninteresting. The narrator’s response to these characters was not interesting, either. Maybe I feel this way because of COVID. The book is dreary. Depressing. There are several quotes from Nietzche and Camus and the book itself has an existential feel to it. Pretty much what’s the point in living because life has no meaning or purpose is what I got out of it. It reminds me of Camus’ work. If you’re a fa Nunez is a beautiful writer, but I could not get into this novel. The characters were simply uninteresting. The narrator’s response to these characters was not interesting, either. Maybe I feel this way because of COVID. The book is dreary. Depressing. There are several quotes from Nietzche and Camus and the book itself has an existential feel to it. Pretty much what’s the point in living because life has no meaning or purpose is what I got out of it. It reminds me of Camus’ work. If you’re a fan of the existentialists, you may like it. And again, it could be I couldn’t get excited about the book because the depressing story doesn’t help with the pandemic.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Debbi

    While The Friend was one of my favorite books this year, What Are You Going Through didn't speak to me. Maybe it is simply my mood. This book didn't have the same balance of levity woven into the themes of loss, grief and death. Unquestionably well written, it felt a little too grim for the moment.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    What would you do if a friend asked you to watch her die by her own hand? That's the question the unnamed narrator must face in this thoughtful novel. Her friend, also unnamed, is dying and would like to leave the hospital, rent a house, do a few last things, and then commit suicide. While this might appear, based on the description provided by the publisher, to be a novel about euthanasia, it's more about how one can look back at one's life as one ages. The narrator's thoughts meander - althoug What would you do if a friend asked you to watch her die by her own hand? That's the question the unnamed narrator must face in this thoughtful novel. Her friend, also unnamed, is dying and would like to leave the hospital, rent a house, do a few last things, and then commit suicide. While this might appear, based on the description provided by the publisher, to be a novel about euthanasia, it's more about how one can look back at one's life as one ages. The narrator's thoughts meander - although never far. You'll have a much better sense of her than of her friend. It's not a plot driven novel but it will make you think. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. For fans of literary fiction,

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pickle Farmer

    Dying is a role we play like any other role in life: this is a troubling thought. You are never your true self except when you're alone - but who wants to be alone, dying? This is a book about DEATH, or more specifically dying, or even more specifically the dying of a close friend. So... NOT A COMFORT READ. It's very short, and I recommend reading it in as close to one sitting as you can. I read it on the train to London and finished it in ninety minutes. The character of the friend is maaaybe bas Dying is a role we play like any other role in life: this is a troubling thought. You are never your true self except when you're alone - but who wants to be alone, dying? This is a book about DEATH, or more specifically dying, or even more specifically the dying of a close friend. So... NOT A COMFORT READ. It's very short, and I recommend reading it in as close to one sitting as you can. I read it on the train to London and finished it in ninety minutes. The character of the friend is maaaybe based on Susan Sontag - in any case, the character is a fairly well-known academic. The narrator is apparently the same person as "The Friend," (according to the author herself) a book I really enjoyed. The voice here has the same friendliness and warmth. There is a lot of humour, which is what really makes the book special - I was reminded of "All My Puny Sorrows." And there's a Rachel Cusk element of the book in the sense that the narrator meets a lot of different people who tell her different stories. There's also a talking cat that appears, albeit briefly. Ageing, climate change, the importance of physical appearance to women and what happens when that fades... the book looks at it all with clear prose and a blunt view. Overall, quite an intense book but one I really enjoyed. Thanks to the publishers and to NetGalley for the ARC. Quotes I enjoyed: Of all the ways of looking at a writer today, as a knight in shining armour strikes me as probably the most far-fetched. I don't want to read any more about human, in particular, male, hideousness. Whatever happened to Faulkner's idea that a writer's job was to lift people up? Being with her was like being trapped in a dark, moldy cellar. Anxiety and depression held at bay. I could do it, then. I could live another day. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who upon seeing someone else suffering think, That could happen to me, and those who think, That will never happen to me. The first kind of people help us to endure, the second kind make life hell. I don't want to spend the last days of my life in a red state. There are no truly stupid human beings, no uninteresting human lives, and that you'd discover this if you were willing to sit and listen to people. Be kind, because everyone you meet is going through a struggle. The only thing harder than seeing yourself grow old is seeing the people you've loved grow old.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    What Are You Going Through brings award-winning writer Sigrid Nunez’s singular voice to a story about the meaning of life and death, and the value of companionship. A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each What Are You Going Through brings award-winning writer Sigrid Nunez’s singular voice to a story about the meaning of life and death, and the value of companionship. A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own. This is a beautiful, power and emotionally intelligent story in which Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now. Books rarely make me shed a tear but the sheer languid and lyrical nature of the prose managed to impact me in such a moving way. This is a life-affirming novella and despite its short length, it packs a powerful punch with memorable characters and a never less than compelling plot. Sharply observed and perceiving the beauty in all of life's delights, Nunez punctuates the dark sections with black humour which can be a welcome relief at times. A stunning read. Many thanks to Virago for an ARC.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Richards

    There's something about this book. I enjoyed it a lot. Sometimes I felt a little lost, but the book has this way of bringing you in to this person's life and being part of it as she navigates her friend battling and ultimately succumbing voluntarily to cancer. It's touching and raw in a lot of ways but distant and cold in others. There's a line I loved in it: "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who upon seeing someone else suffering think, That could happen to me, and those who th There's something about this book. I enjoyed it a lot. Sometimes I felt a little lost, but the book has this way of bringing you in to this person's life and being part of it as she navigates her friend battling and ultimately succumbing voluntarily to cancer. It's touching and raw in a lot of ways but distant and cold in others. There's a line I loved in it: "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who upon seeing someone else suffering think, That could happen to me, and those who think, That will never happen to me. The first kind of people help us to endure, the second kind make life hell." Highly recommend just go experience the number of humans the narrator encounters and how relatable they are. Good short read. Glad I did it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shivani Sankaran

    sigrid nunez is THE seminal writer on life, death, everything in between and everything beyond. another banger. (4.5/5 stars)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Libby Mandarino

    I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I love Sigrid Nunez. It's frustrating seeing reviews that can't handle a non-linear plot - I don't know what to say to those other than grow up? The structure feels especially relevant during quarantine, loaded with asides & reminiscences, and is the strength of the book. It feels natural, the way you would process a momentous, impactful period of your life and pull out all the other memories around it. Her prose is smooth I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I love Sigrid Nunez. It's frustrating seeing reviews that can't handle a non-linear plot - I don't know what to say to those other than grow up? The structure feels especially relevant during quarantine, loaded with asides & reminiscences, and is the strength of the book. It feels natural, the way you would process a momentous, impactful period of your life and pull out all the other memories around it. Her prose is smooth and easy to read. The way she's able to put the extremely isolating, incomprehensible ways we feel grief into words makes you feel less alone.

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