What Are You Going Through

Random. Sept. 2020. 330p. ISBN 9780593191415. $26. F
“Women’s stories are often sad stories” opens the fourth chapter in this new novel from National Book Award winner Nunez (The Friend), and it is an apt descriptor for what you will find here. The narrator (none of the characters is named) is a writer in late middle age who travels to visit a friend undergoing cancer treatment. What serves as plot is the narrator’s continued comfort and support for her friend once her diagnosis becomes terminal, but mostly the narration is an accounting of various stories and reflections she hears from her friend and others about their lives, loves, and regrets. Much as in Rachel Cusk’s recent work, the narrator is a conduit and sounding board for the stories of others. The believability and relatability of these stories are contrasted with a sensational thriller the narrator is reading at the Airbnb where she is staying.
VERDICT Deeply empathetic without being sentimental, this novel explores women’s lives, their choices, and how they support one another, particularly when they don’t have spouses or children or those relationships have become strained. Highly recommended for readers who favor emotional resonance over escapism during difficult times. [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/20.]

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