The Vulnerables

Riverhead. Nov. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9780593715512. $28. F
In Nunez’s (What Are You Going Through) latest, the narrator is a writer in New York City during the COVID pandemic lockdown. Her local friend is stuck in California and desperate for help, as her college-age pet sitter has left New York and her parrot needs food and attention. So the narrator moves into her friend’s fabulous apartment and lends her own home to a visiting doctor. The narrator finds solace in caring for her friend’s parrot, but isolation takes a mental toll. But then the previous pet sitter suddenly reappears, and the narrator must share the apartment with him. Eventually they begin to connect; they get high, share life stories, and discuss issues. The suspension of normal life seems eternal—then one day it is over. The young man gets a job and moves out, taking the parrot with him. The doctor goes home, allowing the narrator to return to her own apartment. Life begins again. Something vital has been lost during the pandemic, but perhaps hope lingers. Nunez skillfully confuses the narrative—is it fiction or autobiography or both?—and confronts many issues, from mental illness to political chaos to vaccine denial.
VERDICT Fans of thoughtful introspection in their reading will enjoy.
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