Book Review: ‘Helpless’

   Posted by: Faith   in Tasty Tomes

Helpless: A Novel – Barbara Gowdy – audiobook (Fiction)

I received this audiobook in the mail awhile back (an ‘add-on’ from a HarperCollins ARC) and finally got around to converting it from mp3 to CD format so I could listen to it in the car. Unfortunately, I wasted my time. I knew from the start that it wasn’t really my kind of book, but I was willing to give it a shot, in hopes that it would provide some level of entertainment during all the driving I do. To give you a sense of what I’m going to talk about in regards to how I felt about the story, here’s the description from the back of the disc case:

“Nine-year-old Rachel Fox has the face of an angel, a heart-stopping luminosity that strikes all who meet her. Her single mother, Celia, working at a video store by day and a piano bar by night, is not always around to shield her daughter from the attention – both benign and sinister – her beauty draws. When a summer blackout plunges the city into darkness and confusion, Rachel is taken from her home. A full-scale search begins, but days pass with no clues, only a phone call Celia receives from a woman whose voice she has heard before but cannot place. As Celia fights her terror, and Rachel starts to trust in her abductor’s kindness, the only other person who knows where the little girl is wavers between loyalty to the captor and saving the child. Will Rachel be found before her abductor’s urge to protect and cherish turns to something altogether less innocent?”

Now I’ll talk about what I thought, so **SPOILERS AHEAD**!!! …mind you, that description from the back doesn’t really leave much out from the book itself. In fact… I think the description from the book jacket gives away the whole darn thing. Sigh.

Anyway, I listen to this book with a sense of trepidation the whole time, worried that things were doing to delve into the disturbing realm of child molesting and I was going to have to turn it off, but fortunately, this didn’t happen. However, as the story progresses (almost all the ‘twists’ of which are revealed on the book jacket), we find the captor begin to struggle with his adoration for Rachel. Near the end of the book, it finally seems like his “love” for her is starting to get difficult to control, and it may turn into something else that he can’t control. He spends a lot of time convincing himself and his female partner that he’s not a perv and that he’d never do anything to hurt Rachel, but in the last chapter, he begins to struggle with the seeds of temptation. We already know that there’s something wrong with his mind – what kind of person would convince themselves they need to kidnap a child to “save her” from her own parents and then lock her in his own basement believing she’ll come to thank him and love him like a father for it??? – so this development isn’t strange.

In fact, this development coincides with the plot twist that Rachel, her captor, and his girlfriend are going to pack up and leave for Florida, since the police search is literally just about to find out where she’s being held. During the grid search, Rachel’s mother ends up at Rachel’s captor’s house, and we get a sense that she knows something is up and will come back to look again. So, they plan to pack everything and leave for Florida. Just as the bags are being packed, the captor’s girlfriend leaves with plans to go to the police station and tell them everything. We enter a scene with Rachel and her captor getting into a van with some suitcases, and it’s assumed that they’re going to leave the girlfriend behind, since they’re running out of time to escape. They begin driving, and the next thing we know, the captor pulls up a block away from Rachel’s house, says goodbye, and lets her go . What? No, seriously… WHAT???

This wasn’t hinted at. This wasn’t led up to. There are a few thoughts that flit through the captor’s head as they’re driving that suggest he might commit suicide (which really does NOT make sense, since it’s completely inconsistent with his character), but then after he lets her go, he drives off and the book ends. I literally sat in my car, pressing ‘rewind’ to see if I’d missed something, but no. That’s it. He lets her go without motivation, and then the ‘bad guy’ is off. Presumably Rachel will tell the police and they’ll find him, but maybe he’ll be dead by then…??? But… but… *holds head in frustration*.

All I can figure is: the author got lazy and didn’t know how to end the book. Or, no one bothered to read this book and edit for consistency. It was just too ridiculous, the way things ended, and I can’t recommend it to anyone… unless you like finishing a book unsatisfied. Oh well. I’m going to pass this one on to whoever wants it, but I can honestly say, I think someone would get more enjoyment out of smashing the CD than they would actually listening to the bloody thing.

Rating: 1 coffee out of 5


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