Friendship. Helen Garner masters the challenges of conflicting emotions in her new novel, The Spare Room. Protagonist Helen prepares the spare room in her Melbourne home for the arrival of her friend, Nicola, who will arrive from Sydney for three weeks of cancer therapy. Three weeks could be the blink of an eye, but caregiving turns Helen’s life upside down, and when she feels Nicola is being treated by charlatans, her anger overflows. Nicola surrenders to Helen and other friends while maintaining confidence that she will be cured. Nicola’s expectation of what friends will do seems misplaced, but Helen proves that friends can be true to one another. Any reader who has experienced hospice care or cared for a loved one will likely recognize the range of conflicting emotions that Garner’s characters feel on these finely written pages.
Rating: Three-star (Recommended)