Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE HELPLINE by Katherine  Collette


by Katherine Collette

Pub Date: July 23rd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-9821-1133-5
Publisher: Atria

This debut novel from Melbourne-based writer Collette replaces the chubby, clumsy rom-com heroine of yore with a mathematically smart, socially inept protagonist in need of redemption.

Germaine’s long tenure at an insurance company ends ignominiously, forcing her to take a job at the city-run Senior Citizens Helpline, where—in a self-guided attempt to decrease call times—she is farcically unhelpful. Regardless, Mayor Verity Bainbridge taps Germaine to help with a special project for a special friend. The friend, amazingly, is one of Germaine’s heroes—disgraced sudoku champion Alan Cosgrove, now in charge of the local golf course. The project: reprimand the elderly managers of the nearby senior center who've recently put chains on the tires of golfers using the center's parking lot. Germaine, fancying herself friends with the mayor, is all too happy to comply; she also imagines a burgeoning romance with Alan Cosgrove. The only problem is that, as her interactions with the senior-center staff unfold, she finds her loyalties shifting. Or at least she feels increasingly uncomfortable with her civic role, which is nearly the best she can do in terms of self-awareness. Luckily, she has boatloads of supporters—co-workers, the seniors, a neighbor, her mother, and, obviously, a love interest—to prod her (painstakingly) toward morally and romantically positive outcomes. Writing from Germaine's perspective has pros: Readers get detailed explanations of her entertainingly particular logic while still seeing more poignant aspects of her inner life, and Collette includes enough clues about what's going on around Germaine to show the often very funny disconnect between the two. But because Germaine is not a naturally empathetic or kind character, it is difficult to know how her scrappy fan club determines she's worthy of their loyalty.

Clever writing about an awkward character.