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Book Review: Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sultan

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What happened to Helen Keller after The Miracle Worker? The historical record shows that she graduated from college in 1904 and helped found the ACLU in 1920. A devoted humanitarian, Helen constantly worked on behalf of those with disabilities. She learned several means of communication: lip touching, finger spelling, Braille, speech, typing. The historical record reveals her public life and impact on society. What happened in her personal life?

Helen Keller in Love describes her love affair with a man who has many reasons to exploit her. The premise is both provocative and human. Why wouldn’t a woman deprived of so much have emotional and sexual yearnings? “At age 37 she says, “I was tired of being perfect Helen Keller…I wanted to break free.”

The book will surely prompt controversy. Some reviews criticize the book for placing a stain on Helen Keller’s reputation. How difficult to take a slice of a high-profile person’s life and turn it into a novel. I give Rosie Sultan credit. She opened herself up for scrutiny and criticism. I remind all of the “this could never have happened” critics that Helen Keller in Love is a work of fiction based on an extraordinary real person. The extensive research done for the book substantiates that Helen Keller and Peter Fagan did have a love affair.

Readers will have to determine whether the author created a compelling story around a known fact. The story loses its impact for this reader by revealing the outcome of the love affair within the first few pages. The reader is constantly on edge wondering what unseemly things Peter is up to. Although Helen’s voice is credibly written, the threads of Helen Keller in Love don’t weave together to make an entirely credible read.

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