This beautifully written fiction illuminates the lives of three palliative care nurses from diverse backgrounds who nurse in a Perth hospice. With understated humour, emotional depth and philosophical questioning, it subtly demonstrates how a milieu of care may infuse compassion, kindness and goodwill into community life.

Acacia House cover - Novel by Vivien Stuart

Three inter-twining nurse-narratives reveal both the professional and personal lives of the nurses. Alice has sought refuge in Perth from a brief abusive marriage in Adelaide. Maedhbh has been compelled by unemployment to leave Ireland. Gabby has reluctantly left South Africa seeking a better life for her son.

Despite their differing, even conflicting cultural and spiritual values, the women discover a community of care, humour and kindness as they nurse a range of patients, rich and poor, young and old, Aboriginal and immigrant, religious and irreligious.

The women’s often painfully acquired understanding of themselves and of each other transforms their personal lives. Their personal journeys carry the reader beyond the hospice – from outback South Australia to a Buddhist retreat in Ireland, from camping in Western Australia’s Kimberley to witnessing South African poverty, from walking the Bibbulmun track to political protests in Perth.

Readers may discover how caring for those at the end of life teaches care for the living, including care for the self. And they may see the sacrifice that care may demand.

This is a timely novel for a world renewing the value it places on care and kindness.