Helen Keller in Love
Blind and deaf Helen Keller is 37 in 1916. She tours the country speaking about her “miracle” release from the silent darkness of her affliction with the help of her long-time teacher, Annie Sullivan. Helen is dependent on Annie for everything, including the finger-spelling into her hand that lets her know what others are saying and translates her own views. Her socialist leanings at the start of World War I make her speeches increasingly unpopular, and money is tight.
Helen is lonely, as she longs to be a true woman with more freedom. Annie falls ill and hires a young man to help out as Helen’s secretary. Helen is immediately attracted to Peter Fagan, and a clandestine love affair begins. Her family and Annie fight against Helen’s desires and vow to separate them. Is Peter an opportunist, looking for his own fame, or a man in love?
Rosie Sultan has taken on a major task with a blind-deaf heroine. The prose is elegant, and the author deftly shows us Helen’s world through touch and smell. You believe in Helen’s desperate loneliness for a man in her life and her desire to be like other women. Her attraction to Peter begins before she even meets him, which makes their romance appear contrived, though it is partially based on fact. The snappy language between them also seems a stretch given Helen’s difficulty in communication.
I studied Helen Keller in school so came to the story with a lot of knowledge. Other readers will be encouraged to research this remarkable woman.