WHEN THE ROLLER COASTER STOPS by Susan Tarr
I normally shy away from books with a storyline around terminal illness; the emotional trauma, the suffering the illness causes and the despair of friends and family. However, Susan Tarr, with her exquisite writing skills, manages to make ‘When The Roller Coaster Stops’ into an adventure full of life, hope and quirkiness.
The two main characters, Bethany and Kate, although from very different backgrounds, manage to bring the very best out in each other. Well maybe not in the early stages of their relationship, but certainly towards the end. Frumpy Kate meets stylish, perfectly coiffured Bethany when she is employed by Bethany to clean her luxury apartment. There are so many ‘truths’ here, about personal interactions, ulterior motives, and co-dependency that I marvelled at how expertly the author managed to stay on track to keep the reader transfixed right to the last few words written.
Weaving in and out of the two women’s lives, are gay friends, Bethany’s ex husband, and other friends who are not always welcome. There are plenty of tranquil days when the two friends can relax at a beachfront holiday house or lie together in bed talking and sleeping. Contrasted with these days, are the never ending bitchy tiffs between Bethany and Kate, and gay friends, Simon and George. During the different stages of her illness Bethany suffers episodes of depression and self pity which she takes out on soft targets Kate and George. Bethany could be manipulative and positively cruel to those who genuinely cared about her.
Even allowing for the subject matter, I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It is essentially a book about the brutal honesty of shared intimacy, human failings, and the untimely interruption of fate. Then again it could very well be interpreted as a story of loyalties in which sacrifices are made for another’s well being, or not. But you know, I think it’s more about a vibrant, once selfish young woman’s terminal illness slowly shrinking her privileged, dazzling world into the confines of her apartment with a handful of people who she finally realises mean everything to her. Like all Susan Tarr’s books, you never know what to expect from one chapter to the next.
–Anne Frandi-Coory 8 October 2015