Helpless

Barbara Gowdy, Author . Dial $24 (307p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8288-3

Love comes up against obsession in Gowdy's seventh novel (following The Romantic ), and the results are at times chilling, but not always believable. Single mother Celia works two jobs and is often forced to bring nine-year-old Rachel along to her nighttime gigs at a piano bar. Much to Celia's dismay, men are already drawn to biracial Rachel's exotic beauty, and she reluctantly turns down a lucrative modeling contract for the girl. Yet she's unaware that appliance repairman Ron Clarkson has an unhealthy fascination with Rachel that's escalating. Convinced that Celia is not a worthy parent for Rachel, Ron abducts the girl, soon involving his needy girlfriend, Nancy, and igniting an extensive investigation. Although set in Toronto's urban Cabbagetown neighborhood, the atmosphere feels smalltown insular and relies a bit too much on coincidental acquaintances to feel like a city setting. The kidnap plot is, for Gowdy, surprisingly conventional, but frequent glimpses into the childhoods of Ron, Nancy and Celia add depth, revealing the characters' motivations and inviting contemplation of what constitutes appropriate love toward a child. Ron remains too warped to be remotely sympathetic; more compelling are Nancy's conflicted loyalties and Celia's occasional brutal reflections on the sometimes greedy, possessive love between parent and child—a love not unlike obsession. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/26/2007
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 307 pages - 978-0-312-42766-5
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-00-200846-4
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4434-0249-1
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-2157-2
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-349-12030-0
Hardcover - 307 pages - 978-0-316-02784-7
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-00-200892-1
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