4.26.2012

Guest Review: Helen Keller in Love, by Rosie Sultan

A review by Jessica Pruett-Barnett


Helen Keller in Love,
by Rosie Sultan
April 26, 2012
Viking Adult
256 pgs

I first learned of Helen Keller's life beyond the famous “Water” moment (documented famously in the play and movie The Miracle Worker)through the book Lies My Teacher Told Me (by James W Loewen). Her then (and now it seems, based on the newest legislation coming from various states in the USA) radical views have seemingly been erased from the collective conscious, although she was a major voice for the legalization of women's suffrage, birth control, and other causes, speaking in rallies and on vaudeville stages across the country. When I received Helen Keller in Love, by Rosie Sultan, I immediately started it because Helen Keller's love life was something I had never read about. After reading Helen Keller in Love, I wish that still was the case.

Helen Keller in Love begins with Anne Sullivan, longtime companion of Helen Keller, becoming incredibly ill. To help Helen with her speaking engagements, read the papers, and do everything else that Helen can't do by herself, she hires Peter Fagan, an ex-employee of Anne's estranged husband. Helen quickly falls in love with Peter, eventually attempting to marry him, but her family and Anne put a stop to it.

I couldn't help but make comparisons to the Twilight series when reading Helen Keller in Love. Helen Keller, instead of being a strong woman of 37, acts like a dumb teenager. She risks throwing away her entire life for a man that she barely knows, that she knows already has a fiancee. Sultan's Helen has no depth, no dreams, no personality outside of barely defined Peter. I think I was supposed to relate to their love and root for it, but as an adult I cannot relate to the whiny self pity Helen feels for herself because her good friend and family are looking out for her best interests.

As a side note, Sultan sometimes forgets that her main character is both blind and deaf. Helen Keller in Love is told entirely in first person (Helen) and many details are given that Helen could not have known. Also, Sultan doesn't seem to factor in time, particularly in how long it takes to finger spell. Some moments have Helen holding conversations (through finger spelling) simultaneously with movements like getting dressed, which would be a near impossible feat to pull off and are jarring to read.

3 comments:

  1. Glad I read your review because I would have totally picked this up otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for echoing my sentiments in a review I just posted for this one that I received comments blasting me for. I'm so grateful I'm not the only one who felt this way about the novel!

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