The Spare Room
Holt, Feb 2009, $22.00
Dying from bowel cancer, Nicola decides on an alternate treatment method of vitamin C infusions at the Theodore Institute. Her long time friend Helen invites Nicola to live with her as she has a spare room while she undergoes the radical therapy. The terminal ill woman appreciates the kindness and leaves Sydney for Melbourne.
However, as Helen observes Nicola’s efforts to stay alive, she begins to believe the Theodore Institute is filled with con artists providing magical elixirs that do not work. She fears her friend will die soon anyway and is wasting time better spent with loved ones. On the other hand Nicola believes a miracle is forthcoming leading Helen to wonder if she is the right person to help Nicola die with dignity.
This is a fascinating look at friendship as the lead couple see the cancer situation radically different. Helen believes Nicola is foolish wasting her precious last moments and money hoping for a Hail Mary miracle instead of spending what time she has left with her loved ones. Nicola believes Helen is a grump who cannot comprehend life and death as dying has not yet confronted her. Although Helen's eternal squabbling and lecturing become irritating as she either needs to support her friend’s dying wishes, which centers on miracle treatments that probably will fail or toss her out, readers will relish this poignant character study as the reactions to how to behave when pending death seems shortly.