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    Life Advice for Book Lovers: On Absent Friends and Turning 30


    September 29, 2022, 1:51pm

    Welcome to Life Advice for Book Lovers, Lit Hub’s advice column. You tell me what’s eating you in an email to deardorothea@lithub.com, and I’ll tell you what you should read next.


    Dear Dorothea,

    A great, close, wonderful friend just passed away, quite suddenly. We are both devastated, but over time, and beyond the 5 stages of grief angle, we’ll need to renew, and respond to this grief. Are there any books you could suggest?

    She (our friend) was a dog breeder, of champions, and we were lucky to have some of them with us, she was the “grandmother.”

    Thank you,


    Dear Grieving,

    Firstly, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I hope you and your community are finding the care you need during this difficult time. While there are no words that anyone could offer up to make this better, perhaps you would find some solace in Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend? It tells the story of a woman in the aftermath of the loss of a close friend and mentor. She’s left holding all this unexpected grief—and the leash of the Great Dane her friend has left behind. The bond that they form is healing and life-affirming. Here’s hoping it speaks to you as you navigate onward.

    Also, I just want to say how wonderful it is that you have some of her champions with you still; it’s a beautiful legacy she’s left, isn’t it? All these dogs—bundles of joy—in the world, all because of her. She lives on in each of them, I’m sure.

    All love,


    Dear Dorothea,

    I signed a lease and was supposed to move in to a newly renovated apartment 2 months ago, but inspections got all held up and I have been living in a very small Airbnb with my boyfriend and our cat (who keeps unearthing mouse traps with very dead mice).

    I’m also leaving for a trip in ten days and am turning 30 while on my vacation—so, a lot going on and feeling low-key robbed of this time to reflect on my 20s and to look ahead to my 30s.

    Also was in a bit of a reading slump from the stress but am looking to read something now! Fave authors include Clarice Lispector, Anne Carson, Elena Ferrante, Dantiel W. Moniz, Donna Tartt, Virginia Woolf, and Mieko Kawakami.

    Thank you,
    Twenty-nine and feeling like I want to cry <3


    Dear Twenty-nine,

    Happy birthday!! I have a funny feeling your 30s are going to be the best years yet. (There must be a reason, after all, that in the hit film 13 Going on 30, Jennifer Garner skips right over her 20s!)

    It sounds like your daily life has been a bit of a whirlwind recently. I hope your vacation gives you a moment to pause. (Or at the very least, a few quiet moments where you can rest your weary head against the car/train/plane window and feel like you’re in a melancholy movie montage—the best time for deep life reflection! Cue: “Dreams” by the Cranberries.)

    Because it’s your thirtieth birthday, I’m going to recommend not just one book, nor two, but three. (I hope your Libra sensibilities find this satisfying.)

    Based on your tastes, I think we would be very good friends. So, my very good friend, first I will recommend Miranda July’s It Chooses You. This book is like candy. If you’ve been in a reading slump, start here. It’s formatted like a scrapbook, borne out of Miranda July’s own procrastination at finishing a screenplay. Instead of working, she consumes the PennySaver classifieds and interviews the people featured in them. Every object in these pages, every person, every word feels like a space for that rare self-reflection that trips around the sun warrant.

    Second, there’s Christine Smallwood’s The Life of the Mind. Meet Dorothy: a disillusioned woman working as an adjunct professor teaching Writing the Apocalypse. She’s had a miscarriage. She’s in a perfectly fine relationship. She juggles two therapists because she doesn’t fully trust either. I found this book to be a perfect encapsulation of growing up and being unsure and looking endings boldly in the eye.

    And, finally: Grace Paley’s Enormous Changes at the Last Minute simply because her style will speak to you. On plot: “the absolute line between two points which I’ve always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” I hope on the precipice of your thirtieth, in your time away from the hectic context of your normal days, you find the open destiny of life.

    Here’s to thirty, flirty, and thriving!

    <3 Dodo

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