Helpless: A Novel by Barbara GowdyHelpless: A Novel by Barbara Gowdy

Helpless: A Novel

byBarbara Gowdy

Hardcover | February 15, 2007

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Helplessis Barbara Gowdy's brilliant new novel, a provocative, gripping story of an unthinkable act and a mother's heroic love for her child.

Rachel is an uncommonly beautiful young girl. With her tawny skin, pale blue eyes and chromium-blond hair, she is a cherished gift to her mother, Celia. Celia is a single parent holding down two jobs. All too aware of her own precarious equilibrium, she worries about Rachel's innocent longing for her unknown father.

When a blackout plunges the city into darkness and confusion, Rachel is snatched away. Celia, numb with terror and guilt about the choices she has made, confronts the reality of every mother's worst nightmare. The media coverage is tremendous. Closely monitoring it is Ron, a small-appliance repairman with a rare collection of vintage vacuums in his basement. Though Rachel is a stranger to him, he feels oddly connected to her, as though she is his responsibility. His feelings for her are, at once, tender, misguided and chillingly possessive.

Tapping into the fear and tension just below the surface of contemporary city life, Gowdy's clear-eyed prose artfully urges us to consider what we dare not look at too closely. With her uncanny ability to lay bare our common soul and to fearlessly explore the intricate complexities of love, Gowdy has created a masterful novel.

Barbara Gowdy is an award-winning author whose five previous books,The Romantic,The White Bone,Mister Sandman,We So Seldom Look on LoveandFalling Angels, have appeared on bestseller lists throughout the world. The recipient of the Marian Engel Award in 1996, she has been a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and a repeat final...
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Title:Helpless: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.31 × 6.13 × 1.2 inPublished:February 15, 2007Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers LtdLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0002008467

ISBN - 13:9780002008464

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it Down I heard Barbara in an interview on CBC radio and was compelled to check out this book. What an astonishing read! A nail-biter to the last page, I completed it in two days - the narrative tension is a work of art. Disturbing? Yes. However, as someone who works in forensics, I appreciated her realistic portrayal of the evolution of dysfunction and humanity of the "offender". Should be a mandatory read for anyone entering criminology/probation/law enforcement, etc.
Date published: 2008-01-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Weird I was hesitant to read this book. I had heard an interview with the author on the radio, and it didn't seem like the kind of book I could be comfortable reading. It's about nine year old Rachel. Mesmerizingly beautiful, Rachel inadvertantly catches the attention of a neighbourhood weirdo, Ron, who repairs lawn mowers and stereos. Ron, the weirdo, goes out of his way to catch glimpses of Rachel, convincing himself that Rachel is in danger and needs him to rescue her from her supposed dreadful life. (He's delusional) He ends up nabbing her and locking her in a basement room that he built and decorated just for her. Like I pointed out, he's a weirdo. He has some thoughts that link back to his childhood, and perhaps that's why he's such a case. After the initial shock, Rachel seems to handle getting kidnapped pretty well. Of course, Ron has a weirdo girlfriend that seems to go through some realizations in the course of helping Ron take care of Rachel. Thankfully, the girlfriend has a conscience and lets Rachel's mom know Rachel is okay and not dead somewhere. This book wasn't as dark and terrible as I had feared it would be. It was, however, plainly weird. Ron was creepy, and I really had to wonder if a child that was abducted would adapt as well as Rachel did. The writing was smooth and the characters were strong. Barbara Gowdy is an award-winning author, and Helpless was actually longlisted for the 2007 Giller Prize, but, alas, it was not shortlisted. The Giller is one of the most prestigious prizes in Canadian literature.
Date published: 2008-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Serious page-turner! This book, set in Toronto, details the stalking and kidnapping of a young girl. I was hesitant to read it, but once I started, I could not put the book down. It's written from many, alternating points of view, and goes into great depth of character. With the exception of the ending, I felt the story was quite believeable and horrifying, but compelling to read.
Date published: 2008-01-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 'Helpless' - Good But Not Vintage Gowdy I have great respect for Gowdy as an author, but "Helpless" left me feeling empty. She takes on the difficult task of sympathetically portraying Ron, a man who abducts the beautiful 9 year old Rachel from her apartment building during a Toronto blackout. Ron is the helpless one here, a man whose impulses control him until the very end of the novel. He is not a violent man. Gowdy must tread a razor sharp edge to keep our sympathies and maintain verisimilitude. The novel flips between several points of view. Ron, Ron's all-too-complicit girlfriend, the beautiful and headstrong Rachel, and her distraught Mom, Celia. This was a novel that I read far more quickly than I usually do, as I had given up looking for the nuance/substance of Gowdy's previous novels, particularly "The White Bone". There were few surprises in "Helpless"; I felt compelled to read on to discover which of the several obvious plot paths would come to life. Not to make it sound quite so dreadful, I was very impressed with Gowdy's avoidance of sensationalism and the gratuitous elements that keep me away from cinematic treatments of this theme. Her commentary on the Toronto media's portrayal of cases such as the abduction of Rachel rings true. Gowdy's prose is clean and fluid, but not as luminous as in previous novels and stories.
Date published: 2007-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down! So fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Like a car crash you drive by, you might cover your eyes but you still peek through your fingers. The characters are all so real, it made me feel like I was reading the intimate details of a true event.
Date published: 2007-03-07