"The Spare Room" is a short novel at only 195 pages about a woman named Helen whose old friend Nicola, is dying from cancer and comes to stay with her for 3 weeks so she can attend an alternative therapy clinic. Helen is excited about her friend coming to stay and does what she can to make sure she feels welcome by readying her spare room for her with a lovely rug, curtains, nice bedding and a few other touches.
Helen decides she is going to be supportive, encouraging and nurturing during Nicola's time with her but soon finds these feelings difficult to express when conflict appears in their opinions regarding this alternative therapy. Helen feels the people at the clinic are a bunch of quacks that are taking advantage of Nicola and sucking every last dime out of her in hefty payments for these treatments. Helen becomes more and more uncomfortable with the treatments that Nicloa is getting because they make her terribly, terribly ill to the point the woman can't even stand up and shakes so violently you'd think there was an earthquake occuring! Nicola, on the other hand, is hanging onto hope and desperately trying to avoid self-pitying herself and disregards Helen's caretaking.
You'll feel both sympathy yet understanding on Helen and Nicola's parts and although this book is fiction, it does read like real life and not a word is wasted here. It makes you stop to think about alternative therapy as being a choice in fighting cancer, but at the same time, reminds you to be "careful" and research any treatment options you do choose, well.
Excellent novel that is quick but sad, in a good way!
January 19, 2011