The Helpline by Katherine Collette
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 30th July 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 304
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Humour
Office life can be a minefield …
Germaine Johnson likes suduko, biscuits, maths and Chinese food. She’s less sure about the complexities of social interaction and her tendency to just say what she thinks often lands her in hot water. Unfortunately, after ‘the incident’ at Wallace Insurance, she finds herself unemployed.
When her cousin suggests a job at the local council, manning the Senior Citizens Helpline, Germaine really doesn’t have any other option than to say yes. It’s still social interaction, but at a safe distance. However, it turns out Mayor Verity Bainbridge has something more interesting in mind for her. A secret project to stop ‘the troublemakers’ at the senior citizens centre and their feud with the golf club next door. Germaine believes she is the no-nonsense woman for the job – until when she’s forced to get to know the troublemakers and things get more complicated.
Witty, big-hearted and hugely enjoyable, The Helpline is what you might get if you crossed The Rosie Project with Parks and Recreation. If you have ever wrestled with the world of office politics, this charming debut novel is for you.
Germaine Johnson has a passion for anything that is mathematic related. What she doesn’t have a passion for is people. However, when she finds herself unemployed, she knows she has to take a new position on a senior citizens helpline. At least she doesn’t have to see the people she’s supposed to help, and almost immediately she also starts collecting data to minimise inefficiencies and to improve the effectiveness of the helpline. Then Mayor Verity Bainbridge singles her our for a special and secret project in the Senior Citizens Centre and through this role she meets Don Thomas, a handsome owner of the local golf club who reminds Germaine of someone she used to admire. She’s desperate to help the Mayor and Don but is it really just like the Mayor says it is? Can someone have hidden agendas?
I loved the idea of the book, where the author throws our main character Germaine, a senior mathematician who doesn’t “do” people too well, direct to the forefront of a senior citizens centre scandal, so actually to deal with people, and I loved the characters. Germaine, under the surface, is truly lovable, quirky and funny. I know she can perhaps come across as cold and indifferent but believe me, she’s quickly going to grow on you. Germaine might be somewhere “on the spectrum”, I think, though it’s actually never explained, but she could easily be a lost sister of Don Tillman, she has a touch of OCD, she’s naive and is often oblivious to social cues but she has heart in the right place. She’s very smart, however her EQ is rather weak, often tactless but all of those features simply make her a brilliant character to follow. And eventually she finds out what it is that’s important in life.
All the characters in this book are carefully constructed and brilliantly portrayed, and the author’s characterisations are full of warmth. The banter and interactions between them were believable and entertaining.
The diagrams and charts included in the book were the final touch, the icing on the cake and they were brilliant.
“The Helpline” is an amusing, dynamic and unique debut by Katherine Colette, and with tons of depth to it as well. The author provides us with plenty of amusement, lightness and fun but also her story is insightful and poignant. The further you go into the book, the more you’re going to enjoy it, and in the end I simply couldn’t put it down. I’m already looking towards Katherine Collette’s next release, her writing style is already strong, with a distinctive voice to it that immediately thrown me into the heart of the story, full of dry humour that I like so much. Recommended!