A powerful, witty, and taut novel about a complex friendship between two women--one dying, the other called to care for her--from an internationally acclaimed and award-winning author
How much of ourselves must we give up to help a friend in need? Helen has little idea what lies ahead--and what strength she must muster--when she offers her spare room to an old friend, Nicola, who has arrived in the city for cancer treatment. Skeptical of the medical establishment, and placing all her faith in an alternative health center, Nicola is determined to find her own way to deal with her illness, regardless of the advice Helen offers.
In the weeks that follow, Nicola's battle for survival will turn not only her own life upside down but also those of everyone around her. The Spare Room is a magical gem of a book--gripping, moving, and unexpectedly funny--that packs a huge punch, charting a friendship as it is tested by the threat of death.
Garner (Monkey Grip) employs her signature realism in this stunted novel about the infuriating and eye-opening experience of caring for a terminally ill loved one. Helen prepares a room in her Melbourne home for Nicola, an old friend who travels from Sydney to begin a course of alternative treatment for bowel cancer. The central conflict of the story centers around these treatments: Helen fears they may be doing more harm than good, while Nicola has undying faith in the unorthodox practices of the Theodore Institute (these revolve around vitamin C injections), leading Helen to question her ability to care for someone so deep in denial. Garner paints Nicola's unflinching optimism with a heavy hand, and her grand na�vet� is unconvincing, a flaw that's hard to overlook in a novel about a cancer patient. As it wears on, the narrative becomes clouded by litanies of worsening symptoms and platitudes about death, and Helen's bickering about the treatment--while valid--become grating and tiresome. (Feb.)
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Henry Holt and Co.
February 02, 2009
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