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Helpless Paperback – Mar 25 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 25 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002008920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002008921
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #433,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

From Booklist

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
With a depth of imagery and a remarkable knowledge of human behaviour that is unattainable for most writers, Gowdy presents us with love in various forms - parental, perverse or otherwise - and displays the intensity that can make our most earnest attempts at caring for someone devastating. She clears the darkness and lets us inside places unimaginable, whether we think we want to make the journey or not.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I love books that take you into someone's heart and mind, and Barbara Gowdy's Helpless does just that, and does it well. She has a genius for creating characters who deviate from the norm, and doing it in such a way that we can understand them, even if we can't help judging them for their worst behaviours. Often, she shows such compassionate insight into human nature that she succeeds in getting us to withhold judgement, too.
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is the story of a child abduction, which is a not uncommon subject for both true crime books/programs and fiction. And yet Gowdy approaches it in a different way than usual, introducing an abductor, and pedophile, to be sure, who has more depth than often explored in these kinds of stories. Ron has inappropriate impulses, and acts on them by pursuing and abducting a child, but his motivations are complicated, and his emotions are explored in detail. In addition, Gowdy takes an in depth look at the reaction of Nancy, the woman so in love with Ron that she goes along with his plan even though she realizes he has pedophilic impulses and knows that what they're doing is wrong. But she herself was the victim of abuse as a child, and has conflicted feelings about helping him or turning him in.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everything Barbara Gowdy writes I love. This is the woman who fuelled my passion to incorporate writing in my own career plans. She is superb writer with a keen sense of storytelling and the writer's art of craft.
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Format: Paperback
I'm generally a fan of Gowdy's books, having read all of them, even her first, Through the Green Valley, which now seems to be permanently out-of-print. I had the same problem with Helpless as I did with her previous novel, The Romantic. It simply doesn't feel like a whole book. I finished it with a sense of "ok, so where's the rest of it?" She seemed to get frightened of where the plot was going so rushed to end the novel just at the moment when it was beginning to seem believable.

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).
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