In Nunez’s latest novel, empathy is the focus when this narrator’s friend, who has cancer, asks if they could go away on vacation together. Her plan is to not be alone during the trip when she decides to end her own life with pills. Companionship and friendship have risks and the narrator agrees to the vacation, taking it all on to accompany her friend on this emotional journey.
“I don’t know who it was, but someone, maybe or maybe not Henry James, said that 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.”
The characters’ exploration of the will to survive, the zest for life and the finality of death give the reader a lot to think about. The unnamed narrator describes several encounters with random people she crossed paths with in her life and these stories help to answer questions about humanity and the title question, What Are You Going Through.
Through her storytelling, author Sigrid Nunez addresses illness, forgiveness and communication, along with the challenges of being a writer. She also indicates how people have a need to tell their story, and the stories are interesting if you bother to stop and listen. Although the premise of What Are You Going Through sounds depressing, the story is not. I happen to really enjoy the author’s writing and find her to be introspective and thoughtful in her novels. Nunez is clever and humorous, and her characters are humane and compassionate. I highly recommend this book.
More from Sigrid Nunez
If you want to read more from this National Book Award-Winning Author, check out The Friend, a wonderful story about a woman and her dog.
About the Author
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 ofSempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. The Friend, a New York Times bestseller, won the 2018 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2019 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize. In France, it was longlisted for the 2019 Prix Femina and named a finalist for the 2019 Prix du Meilleure Livre. It has also been shortlisted for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award. Nunez’s other honors and awards include a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Berlin Prize Fellowship, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Among the journals to which she has contributed are The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books, Threepenny Review, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, Tin House, The Believer and newyorker.com. Her work has also appeared in several anthologies, including four Pushcart Prize volumes and four anthologies of Asian-American literature. One of her short stories was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2019. Her work has either been or is being translated into twenty-five languages.
Nunez has taught at Columbia, Princeton, and the New School, and has been a visiting writer or writer in residence at Amherst, Smith, Baruch, Vassar, Syracuse, and the University of California, Irvine, among others. Currently teaching at Boston University, she has also been on the faculty of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and of several other writers’ conferences across the country. She lives in New York City.