ISBN #: 978-0143123392
Page Count: 256
Copyright: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books
(Taken from Amazon)
What comes to mind when you think of Helen Keller? Is it the deaf-mute wild child at the water pump outside her Tuscumbia, Alabama, home portrayed in The Miracle Worker or the adult activist for the rights of the disabled and women, the socialist who vehemently opposed war? Rosie Sultan’s debut novel imagines an intimate part of Keller’s life she rarely spoke or wrote about: her one and only love affair.
Peter Fagan, a reporter from Boston, steps in as her secretary when her companion Annie Sullivan falls ill. The world this opens up for her is not the stuff of grade school biographies. Their affair meets with stern disapproval from Annie and from Helen’s mother, and when the lovers plot to elope, Helen is trapped between their expectations and her innermost desires. Sultan’s courageous novel insists on Helen’s right to desire, to human frailty—to be fully and completely alive.
This book was originally published by Viking in April 2012 under the title Helen Keller in Love. I had never heard of either title before receiving this book for review. I've heard of Helen Keller before (who hasn't), but never considered the fact that she may have fallen in love. Like so many people out there, I was ignorant of the fact that a deaf-blind-mute woman would want love in her life as much as any normal female.
Helen in Love is based on facts, but with twists of fiction in it. Nobody really knows what happened between Helen and Peter, but implications can certainly be drawn from the evidence available (Peter's daughter attests to the fact that Peter kept a picture of Helen in his library for years and there was also a note) ... which is where the fiction comes in.
Reading this story made me feel sorry for Helen; even more than I thought possible. I already felt pity for her for not being able to see, hear, or speak, but having the love of a man and not being able to defend that love broke my heart. Everybody deserves to love and be loved. I cannot imagine the loneliness and despair she felt after their affair ended.
Also, the portrayal of how Annie and Mrs. Keller treated Helen was very believable. Annie said she loved Helen like a daughter, but sometimes I wondered if her love for Helen was more than that. They seemed almost a little too intimate at times. Mrs. Keller was just a pain in the arse. She liked to live in the past and remember the times before Helen went deaf/blind/mute as the "good" times. Really?! Like any time after she became disabled was horrible ... unbelievable. Sorry, but I cannot stand negative people and her attitude reeked of pessimism.
Rosie Sultan wrote a very poignant tale about Helen and Peter mixed with the difficulties of Helen's constant dependence on others. This tale will wreak havoc with your emotions. I enjoyed it very much.
*A paperback copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.