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THE HELPLINE by Katherine Collette

An eccentric woman who is great with numbers—but not so great with people—realizes it’s up to her to pull a community together in this charming, big-hearted debut perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and The Rosie Project.

Germaine Johnson doesn’t need friends. She has her work and her Sudoku puzzles. Until, that is, an incident at her insurance company leaves her jobless—and it turns out that there are very few openings these days for senior mathematicians with zero people skills.

Soon enough though, Germaine manages to secure a position at City Hall answering calls on the Senior Citizens Helpline. But it turns out that the mayor has something else in mind for Germaine: a secret project involving the troublemakers at the senior citizens center and their feud with the neighboring golf club—which happens to be run by the dashing yet disgraced national Sudoku champion, Don Thomas, a celebrity of the highest order to Germaine.

Don and the mayor want the senior center closed down and at first, Germaine is dedicated to helping them out—it makes sense mathematically, after all. But when Germaine actually gets to know the group of elderly rebels at the senior center, they open her eyes to a life outside of boxes and numbers and for the first time ever, Germaine realizes she may have miscalculated.

Filled with an eccentric, totally unique, and (occasionally) cranky cast of characters you can’t help but love, The Helpline is a feel-good page-turner that will make you reexamine what it means to lead a happy life—and is bound to capture your heart along the way.

Title : The Helpline
Author : Katherine Collette
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : contemporary fiction
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Release Date : July 23, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5

Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around THE HELPLINE.

At first blush it seems like it’s supposed to be a humourous take on a woman who is brought in to oust troublemakers for the local city council, troublemakers who happen to be senior citizens, and in the end.. she ends up switching sides and teaming up with said senior citizens. And.. it’s sorta that? But also a lot of not.

It’s never stated in the book if Germaine has Aspergers, or is on the spectrum, but at the very least she’s socially inept and very fact-oriented. She’s also incredibly focused, driven to succeed, and preoccupied with looking good to the higher ups. As a result she’s not given much opportunity to be likeable because the higher ups are shady and manipulative and as a result so is Germaine. She’s also awkward with a neighbour, for no reason but she is, and there’s a lot of judgey hypocrisy in some interactions with other people, too. Most notably women.

The cast of seniors are a delight and.. well, that’s honestly all I can say to recommend it. The best parts of this book were when Germaine is navigating the random requests and conversations from the seniors calling in to the helpline. I wish the book had actually spent more time on that.

I didn’t find the humour in this I was promised, I wish the representation had been identified, and the ending just kind of baffles me. I’m sure it’s meant to be endearing but honestly I’m just really confused by the whole experience.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

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