Barbara Gowdy
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Buy *Helpless* by Barbara Gowdy online

Barbara Gowdy
320 pages
April 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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When the police need a description of a missing little girl, they are told that Rachel Fox is unusually beautiful. Nine-year-old Rachel is the daughter of Celia, a single mom working two jobs to make ends meet. When she brings Rachel to work with her, the tip jar fills faster and with more money. Itís because of Rachelís looks they are chased down the street by a modeling agency representative. He thinks Rachel can make them a thousand dollars per advertisement.

And one look of Rachel Fox makes thirty-seven-year-old Ron fall in love with her. He starts watching her at her school and at her home; when he sees where she lives and the men in her life, he decides he needs to save her. He starts building a soundproof bedroom for her full of stuffed animals and white furniture. Ron abducts Rachel from this imagined life of danger on a night when a power failure hits the city.

The Toronto police do everything they can to find Rachel; volunteers canvas the neighborhood, and reward money is donated by strangers. They receive their first tip after a news conference, and itís from Ronís girlfriend, Nancy, who reaches out to let them know Rachel is alive.

Ron is the reason Nancy quit using crystal meth, and her love for him is why she is keeping his secret. She promises not to tell anyone about Rachel, even though it feels like kidnapping to her. However, Nancy becomes very protective of Rachel and does what she can to make the girl happy. This includes the phone call to the police and mailing a letter Rachel writes to her mother.

Ron realizes that he is very close to crossing a line. Throughout the book, his emotions fluctuate from elation to pity to fear. He questions whether he feels protective of Rachel or lustful. At first Rachel is very frightened of Ron and hides under the bed. This changes after she briefly escapes and gets a scare outside. Her fear of Ron suddenly disappears. Something changes in Ron and Nancy, too. Their actions at the end of the story will have book clubs talking and readers wondering.

The characters in this story are well-developed, their pasts revealed and their thoughts uninhibited, making us privy to their fears and desires. Because of their pasts, some of them have come to different understandings of love and desire. Their voices in this story take hold from the start then start twisting.

Canadian author Barbara Gowdy's previous books include The Romantic and We So Seldom Look on Love.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Tanya Boudreau, 2007

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