A Novel

Book - 2007
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Helpless is 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.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins, 2007.
ISBN: 9780002008464


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loonylovesgood Apr 17, 2013

Hard to put down, but also hard to read in parts. I thought the ending was a little too abrupt. Still, the writing was good and I'd read another by her.

samdog123 Aug 16, 2011

I've never read any previous titles of Barbar Gowdy, a Canadian author, but I certainly enjoyed this one! Celia and Rachel are mother and daughter living in Toronto. As a single mother, Celia struggles to make ends meet, but makes a good home for her daughter with the help of a kind friend and landlord, Mika. When Ron, a single repair man, encounters the beautiful girl Rachel, he becomes enamoured of her and kidnaps her to "save" her. Eventually Ron faces up to the fact that his impulses are the ones Rachel needs to fear. Good flow, enjoyable read.

Apr 06, 2011

A look at the struggles of a pedofile's struggle to contain urges.

AD_Library Aug 22, 2009

This title is not for the faint of heart, as Barbara Gowdy reaches deep into the subject of pedophilia.

But the writing is brilliant and the tale is well told and the reality is, these situations do exist.

4 and a half starts out of 5.

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