Book Review: The Friend

Books that win awards are notoriously hit or miss for me. Anyone else? It feels like the people who decide on literary awards and I just may not be on the same page. Best seller lists and I, well that’s another story. I’ve recently ruled out reading anything from the Man Booker Prize list, but The National Book Award is still one I keep my eye on. All that to say, I picked up this book because it was nominated for the National Book Award, didn’t love it, and then had to ask myself, ‘why did you do that again?’

The Friend is a stream of consciousness letter from a grieving friend to the friend who passed away. While the narrator inherits his dog and deals with her and the dog’s emotions, she writes down all of her thoughts in the form of a letter to her lost friend.

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The first page was great. It’s quirky its weird, it sets up some intrigue, and it makes you feel excited about the epistolary novel to come. But to be honest, it goes downhill from  there. The plot never takes off, and neither, in my opinion does the character development. I was almost holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop and twist to occur. I had some theories! I figured this is either a book within a book or at the end you’ll find out there never was a dog or a friend and the person’s actually a mental patient in a psych ward of a hospital. And for a second it looked like I was going to be correct — but then I wasn’t. And there wasn’t anything else to explain this frankly boring stream of consciousness.

Going back to my point of not being super literary in my reviews of Fun Home AND Circe (Man, I’m really on a roll right now), I think this book would have improved for me had I been a student of literature. When the narrator wasn’t talking about the dog, she was typically talking about writing in literally all forms: what it’s like to be an English teacher, to study English, to write a novel, to read famous works of literature. I think if I understood the references, I would have enjoyed it ten fold, but unfortunately I’m not.

So at the end of all this where are we? Still sitting here, scratching my head, and wondering who the heck decides on literary awards? Yes.