Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Nicola's stage-four cancer takes her from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia, for alternative therapies and a brief stay in friend Helen's spare room. Two women who have known each other for 15 years, spending three weeks together with the weight of one crushing disease: How do we calculate what's important in our lives? Garner (Cosmo Cosmolino) offers up her own equation as these two sexagenarians nearly come to blows when mortality is the bottom line. Nicola puts up with cupping (per Helen, "the more benevolent bullshit") and incapacitating vitamin C drips because she wants to believe they will save her. Helen, who thinks the Theodore Institute reeks of quackery, wonders if the torture of the treatments is worth the cost in terms of Nicola's dignity and time with family and friends. As Helen says, "Death will not be denied. To try is grandiose." Garner's neat prose suits these two crusty dames, who drag themselves through a situation where, ultimately, love is all that counts. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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 naivete 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Book Review
In a short, wise, oddly uplifting novel by Australian writer Garner, an old friend dying of cancer makes a memorable final visit. Garner (The First Stone, 1997, etc.) tackles big themestruth, death, the limits of friendshipwith ease. Nicola and Helen are "old bohemians" whose bond reaches back a decade and a half. Sydney-based, wealthy Nicola is quirky and imperious (she has no use for deodorant, suitcases or underwear), whereas Melbourne-based Helen is more grounded, with family living next door. When Nicola arrives, her cancer is already far advanced: She has had surgery and radiation and is at stage four, the final stage, but the point of her visit is to try another, expensive alternative therapy. Helen, a tireless host, soon finds herself angry, partly because death has arrived in her house, partly because Nicola refuses stronger painkillers, but mainly because her friend stubbornly insists the treatment can cure her. Helen vents some of her mounting rage on the institution treating Nicola, taking her moneywhile aware that her case is terminal. But eventually she confronts Nicola for using the treatments to distract herself from preparing for the end. When an oncologist advises a spinal operation, to be performed locally, which would mean Nicola's stay would be extended, Helen snaps. She can tend her friend no longer. What ensues is described briefly but with enormous love, despite Nicola's unchanging expectations. Wit, simplicity and scorching honesty distinguish an understated triumph. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.