About absent friends and turning 30 ‹ Literary Hub


September 29, 2022, 13:51

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


Dear Dorothea,

A wonderful, close, wonderful friend just passed away, very suddenly. We are both devastated, but over time, and beyond the 5 stages of grief, we must renew and respond to this grief. Are there any books you could recommend?

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

Thank you,
to grieve

Dear grieving,

First off, I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I hope you and your community find the care you need during this difficult time. While there are no words anyone could offer to make this better, you might find some comfort in Sigrid Nunez’s The friend? It tells the story of a woman in the wake of the loss of a close friend and mentor. She’s left with all this unexpected grief – and the Great Dane leash her friend left behind. The bond they form is healing and life-affirming. I hope it appeals to you as you continue navigating.

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

all love,


Dear Dorothea,

I signed a lease and was supposed to move into a newly renovated apartment 2 months ago but the inspections were all held up and I live in a very small Airbnb with my friend and our cat (who keeps digging up mousetraps with very dead mice).

I’m also leaving for a trip in ten days and turning 30 while on vacation – so a lot is happening and I feel restrainedly robbed of this time to reflect on my twenties and look ahead to my thirties.

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

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

Dear twenty nine,

Happy Birthday!! I have a weird feeling that your 30s will be the best years yet. (There must be a reason that in the hit movie) 13 on the way to the 30Jennifer Garner skips her twenties!)

It sounds like your daily life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately. I hope your vacation gives you a moment of peace. (Or at least a few quiet moments where you can rest your tired head against the window of the car/train/plane and feel like you’re in a melancholic movie montage – best time for deep life reflection! Cue : “Dreaming” by the cranberries.)

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

Based on your taste, I think we would be good friends. So, my very good friend, I will recommend Miranda July’s first? It chooses you. This book is like candy. If you’re in a reading slump, start here. It’s formatted like a scrapbook, born of Miranda July’s own procrastination in finishing a screenplay. Instead of working, she consumes the PennySaver advertisements and interviews with the people who appear in them. Every object on these pages, every person, every word feels like a space for that rare self-reflection needed around the sun.

Second, there’s Christine Smallwood’s The life of the mind. Meet Dorothy: a disillusioned woman who teaches Apocalypse writing as an adjunct professor. She had a miscarriage. She has a great relationship. She juggles two therapists because she doesn’t fully trust either. I thought this book was a perfect summary of growing up and being insecure and facing the end with courage.

And finally: Grace Paley’s Huge last minute changes simply because her style appeals to you. On plot: “the absolute line between two points that I have always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes away all hope. Everyone, real or made up, deserves the open fate of life.” I hope that on the abyss of your thirties, in your time away from the hectic context of your normal days, you find the open destiny of life.

At thirty, flirty and thriving!

<3 Dodo

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