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.
Toronto : HarperCollins, 2007.