In Helpless, Celia is a single mother who works two jobs to make ends meet. Her young daughter, Rachel sometimes accompanies her to her dead-end-low-paying jobs. Rachel’s bi-racial features give her an exotic beauty that draws the attention of others. One such individual is a middle-aged vacuum repairman named Ron. Ron quickly becomes obsessed with Rachel. He assumes she is being abused because of some things he’s observed while watching her at her home. When a blackout occurs in the city, Ron makes his move and kidnaps Rachel. With the help of his girlfriend, Nancy, Ron keeps the girl hidden while the family, police and neighbours search frantically.
Gowdy presents a beautifully written story about obsession and love and how it can blind us. Ron was so obsessed with Rachel he couldn’t see his own obsession for what it was or see Celia’s love for Rachel. I truly enjoyed reading this book. While the subject matter was hard to read at times, the characters were authentic and the story made it a fascinating read.
I loved the title of the book, but not because that’s what the characters must have been feeling. It was because that’s what I was feeling while reading it. I thought I knew what was going to happen and I felt “helpless” to stop it. Every time I picked up the book, I dreaded reading further, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to know what happened to Rachel.
It’s not hard to see why the book was long listed for the Giller prize. It’s faboulous.