Most of us know about Helen Keller mainly because of the movie The Miracle Worker. Even those who have read more are probably unaware of a brief moment in Helen’s life when she met and fell in love with a man who was briefly in her employ. Peter Fagan was dispatched to be Helen’s interpreter and guide when the famous Annie Sullivan became extremely ill with what was believed to be tuberculosis. As was necessary in the performance of his duties, Helen and Peter spent long hours together touching and communicating silently and intimately. Soon, the spark of this nearness awakened a lust and then love in both of them.
Though Helen’s life was a testimony to courage, persistence, and patience in so many ways, it was also a life of complete dependence and many moments of quiet despair. Peter brought something wonderful and new to Helen’s life — something she had never thought she would experience.
While this moving story of love is primarily about their affair, it also provides an amazing “fly on the wall” view of the relationship between Annie and Helen – one that was not always perfect, but was always filled with love and mutual dependence. In addition, Rosie Sultan brings us into the heart and mind of someone who lives without sight, hearing, and only limited ability to speak in a way that is totally convincing and real.
Book clubs who love historical fiction or love stories, and those that delve into issues of prejudice and the isolation it brings, will adore this book.
Viking/Penguin; ISBN 978-0-67002-349-3; $25.95.