by Maran Keyes
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Sep 4th 2002
Rachels Holiday is a light novel
with a serious topic. Rachel Walsh is
twenty-seven years old, and after she is hospitalized after an overdose, she is
pressured by her family to check into The Cloisters, a drug treatment
clinic. Her holiday is in fact an
extended stay intended to help her end her dependency on drugs and
When Rachel first arrives at The Cloisters
near her family home in Ireland, she does not think she has a problems, and she
only agrees to treatment because she is hoping to meet a variety of celebrities
and to spend several weeks being pampered by friendly nurses and lounging in
Jacuzzis. But she is appalled to
discover herself surrounded by dysfunctional addicts in denial about their
obvious faults. The most dramatic
episodes occur when relatives or partners of the residents make a special trip
to their group therapy to talk about how the addiction affected their lives,
because it is here that the residents lies are most transparent; these events
are the most effective in breaking down the residents resistance to accepting
the truth about themselves.
The longer Rachel stays, the more obvious it
is that she really has had a serious problem with drink and drugs. We gradually learn more about her previous
years in New York City, where she lived with her old friend and housemate
Brigit and her boyfriend Luke. It
becomes painfully clear how she used to rely on cocaine, tranquilizers and
drink to calm her anxieties and insecurities, lying and stealing to get access
to her needed chemicals. But Rachel
herself is stuck in her old ways of thinking, blaming everyone else for her
difficulties and lacking any real insight into her own life.
It takes some difficult group sessions for
Rachel to finally come to better understanding of her addiction, and she
eventually comes to accept her dependence.
Author Marian Keyes, whose previous novel Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married was a pleasing comedy, writes with
a lightly humorous touch. The strength of this book is in its ability to convey
the power of denial without setting out a textbook description of substance
abuse as a mental disorder. It is a
good read that should appeal to a wide range of readers, especially those who
might want to know a little more about addiction.
© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island.
He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring
how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help
foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the