What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez
The question of how to live has been approached by every writer and philosopher. Yet buried in this question, this pursuit of ‘living’, is another inquiry; How should we die?
What Are You Going Through, the latest novel from Sigrid Nunez (whose previous work The Friend won the National Book Award in 2018), is a ruminating journey towards understanding the paradox we face at the end of our lives; we are out of time, but seem to have all the time in the world. In this state of existence, we scour memories–whether they are painful or humorous–to find meaning and validation for choices made and actions taken.
The narrator in What Are You Going Through is an unnamed, unmarried, childless author who gets a strange request from a former colleague; to help her die. The narrator agrees, and the two women embark on a unique, sometimes morbid yet ultimately uplifting journey. Interspersed throughout the ‘present’ story of these two women are memories of interactions the narrator had previously with people who were approaching death.
Nunez believes in the power of story, and her narrator posits that there are not stupid people nor uninteresting lives, it just takes time to sit down and listen for a while. What Are You Going Through epitomizes this to perfection, the main narrative and the past memories are a unique blend of humor and pain, combining to create a profound meditation on life, death and companionship.
Review by Joel
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