Hanukkah! Paperback – Oct 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Love comes up against obsession in Gowdy's seventh novel (following The Romantic), and the results are at times chilling, but not always believable. Single mother Celia works two jobs and is often forced to bring nine-year-old Rachel along to her nighttime gigs at a piano bar. Much to Celia's dismay, men are already drawn to biracial Rachel's exotic beauty, and she reluctantly turns down a lucrative modeling contract for the girl. Yet she's unaware that appliance repairman Ron Clarkson has an unhealthy fascination with Rachel that's escalating. Convinced that Celia is not a worthy parent for Rachel, Ron abducts the girl, soon involving his needy girlfriend, Nancy, and igniting an extensive investigation. Although set in Toronto's urban Cabbagetown neighborhood, the atmosphere feels smalltown insular and relies a bit too much on coincidental acquaintances to feel like a city setting. The kidnap plot is, for Gowdy, surprisingly conventional, but frequent glimpses into the childhoods of Ron, Nancy and Celia add depth, revealing the characters' motivations and inviting contemplation of what constitutes appropriate love toward a child. Ron remains too warped to be remotely sympathetic; more compelling are Nancy's conflicted loyalties and Celia's occasional brutal reflections on the sometimes greedy, possessive love between parent and child—a love not unlike obsession. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Here the imaginative Gowdy (Mister Sandman, 1997) reins in her surrealistic side in the service of a more conventional plot, and the result makes for absorbing reading. Single mother Celia Fox works two jobs but is plagued by money problems; however, she never considers her daughter anything less than a blessing. She still feels a sense of amazement that the beautiful nine-year-old Rachel, who has received the attention of a local modeling agency, is really hers. But then Rachel draws the admiration of Ron, a middle-aged appliance repairman who becomes convinced that her mother is neglecting her. During a blackout, he abducts her and locks her in a room he has constructed just for her, complete with a plasma TV and a custom-made dollhouse. As the police hunt for Rachel intensifies, so do the emotions of the involved parties. Even Gowdy's secondary characters are memorable, especially Celia's kindhearted, intellectual landlord and Ron's vulnerable, ex-addict girlfriend. But her true feat is the sympathetic portrayal of Ron himself, a man who seems painfully unaware of his own dark impulses. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
She has clearly done her homework, which would have been extensive and substantial, for this work. Detail and accuracy allow the story to shine. There are no weak characters. All are developed and true, from the primary and secondary to the most minute and even the animals. Her ability to humanize Ron is nothing beyond incredible.
Read this book and bask in Gowdy's achievement.
I find the characters in Helpless intrinsically interesting, as I often find Gowdy's characters, but it's really her skill that makes them come alive. Her descriptive abilities are subtle and fluid, and her writing style so smooth she makes it look easy. In this book, she never puts a foot wrong, never interrupts our absorption in her fictional world with a wrong word or awkward phrase. That in itself shows brilliance.
Add to that an element of suspense handled in a classy, never cheap-tricks way, and you have a wonderful novel that is both entertaining and educational.
The character who is least explored is the child's mother, who has seemingly platonic relationships with several men in the book that are never fully explored or explained.
A good read.
I have a feeling that if she'd waited a few years to allow some distance and to let the ideas in the book stew in her mind for a while she would have produced a much better novel. Her older books have an unblinking honesty that in comparision just make this book feel even more like a cop out. She wanted to explore the idea of pedophilia, morality and the lines society creates and breaks but then she appears to be too afraid of the subject matter to write it honestly. In interviews she's cited examples of people like Lewis Carroll, who might have had a thing for little girls but never actually acted on his feelings, as a way of attempting to explain Ron, but it just doesn't fly: Ron loses his battle the moment he abducts Rachel. If she had written honestly from that point on it would have been pretty horrific. I can understand her reluctance to tackle the subject truthfully, because really how many people are comfortable reading a book full of graphic descriptions of molestation let alone writing one?
In trying to humanize Ron she includes an explanation for the origins of Ron's pedophilia, which borrows rather shamelessly from Lolita (Humbert and his first love as a teenager).Read more ›
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