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Publisher's Summary

"As good as The Friend, if not better." (The New York Times)

"Impossible to put down...leavened with wit and tenderness." (People)

"I was dazed by the novel’s grace." (The New Yorker)

The New York Times best-selling, National Book Award-winning author of The Friend brings her singular voice to a story about the meaning of life and death, and the value of companionship.

A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people, the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own.

In What Are You Going Through, Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight to a novel about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.

©2020 Sigrid Nunez (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Richly interiorized ... With both compassion and joy, Nunez contemplates how we survive life’s certain suffering, and don’t, with words and one another.” (Booklist [starred review])

"Short, sharp, and quietly brutal ... spare and elegant and immediate ... What Are You Going Through is concerned with the biggest possible questions and confronts them so bluntly it is sometimes jarring: How should we live in the face of so much suffering? Dryly funny and deeply tender.” (Kirkus Reviews [starred review])

“Much as in Rachel Cusk’s recent work, the narrator is a conduit and sounding board for the stories of others.... Deeply empathetic without being sentimental, this novel explores women’s lives, their choices, and how they support one another.... Highly recommended for readers who favor emotional resonance over escapism during difficult times.” (Library Journal [starred review])

What listeners say about What Are You Going Through

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant, Insightful, Highly Relevant

Like The Friend, Nunez's previous novel, this is a mediation on illness, aging, friendship, and the current state of the planet. While there is a story--and one that becomes increasingly compelling--it's secondary to thoughtful digressions by the narrator and other characters. (All unnamed.) Nunez writes with such precision and intelligence, I found myself hanging on every insight and observation. The discussions on climate change and mortality feel especially relevant to this moment. All that might make the novel sound grim, but it never is. The work is leavened by Nunez's wit, literary references, and playful, irreverent sense of humor. There's not a moment of sentimentality or maudlin self-pity. Hillary Huber has a very agreeable voice. Her reading is pretty straightforward, which is exactly what this book demands. Highly recommended.

7 people found this helpful

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Deep, provocative, life changing.

I found this novel so original. We will all face death, but Nunez made it less mysterious. So this is how it might be? I really liked Hillary Huber's rather dispassionate tone.

6 people found this helpful

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A Few Words

Beautiful story for women and men of a certain age. Nunez writes with compassion and sensibility .

5 people found this helpful

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Perfect for our times

This novel of ideas is startlingly prescient as it addresses matters of mortality and life’s significance. I found it deeply moving and relevant as I, like everyone, suffer through quarantine. It’s funny, too.

5 people found this helpful

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Struggled to finish

Did not enjoy the stream of consciousness style and lack of any actual storyline. Boring.

4 people found this helpful

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Global jihad

Obviously this author has zero understanding of the word jihad. She uses Global jihad as a bad thing. Jihad means struggle. It is inappropriate and anti semetic.

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confusing and depressing

Awful waste of of time. Actually now annoyed that I stuck with it, when half way through I knew it was trite. Alas, false hope it would get better.
Pedantic, superficial treatment of living while dying. I know this from personal experience. Had hoped for something meaningful, especially from an author who believes every word counts and struggles over every sentence. Clear failure to connect with either the dying or those supporting them.

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Dark and depressing!

I read this for a book club. Even the person that recommended this book did not like it! Many in our hook club did not finish reading it. It was difficult to get through. I did not enjoy anything about this book. It was a waste of my time.

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Completely brilliant!!!

Like everything Nunez writes, this was gorgeous & smart & witty & very moving.
A great treat & an education.

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Worst read ever

Terrible read, disappointing, disjoint story line very difficult to follow. I would not recommend this book.