What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez
A sensitive and emotionally touching look at our lives, our mistakes and our paths to redemption.
This sensitive and beautifully written story of people’s lives as told to a sympathetic listener is, in the end, comforting and reassuring. Many of the experiences related here are not happy, but acceptance and redemption are high on the list of lessons learned. The reader is left feeling better about being human, and that is a wonderful thing. The crisp, bright writing propels a compelling narrative that captures the heart and soothes the soul.
The narrator is asked to accompany a longtime friend as she goes through the process of dealing with a cancer that is slowly taking her life. A daunting prospect for anyone, taking on such a deeply personal responsibility requires some serious self-searching and no small measure of courage. She accepts the challenge with love and empathy.
As the two friends journey through the thorny landscape of affliction they resurrect memories, both happy and sad, and find at the end a peaceful place where all is well. Along the way, tales of acquaintances who have suffered setbacks of all kinds emerge to inform the process and show how and how not to proceed. These examples, many of which did not signify at the time they were experienced, are illustrative of both human resiliency and frailty.
Superb writing makes the less joyous parts of the tale not only tolerable, but welcome, as being told by a grandmother that life is hard, but good. The message may be harsh, but the voice is reassuring and brings comfort. The reader feels at the end that progress towards a meaningful life has been made.