Synopses & Reviews
A captivating novel that explores the little-known romance of a beloved American icon
Helen Keller has long been a towering figure in the pantheon of world heroines. Yet the enduring portrait of her in the popular imagination is The Miracle Worker, which ends when Helen is seven years old.
Rosie Sultan’s debut novel imagines a part of Keller’s life she rarely spoke of or wrote about: the man she once loved. When Helen is in her thirties and Annie Sullivan is diagnosed with tuberculosis, a young man steps in as a private secretary. Peter Fagan opens a new world to Helen, and their sensual interactions—signing and lip-reading with hands and fingers—quickly set in motion a liberating, passionate, and clandestine affair. It’s not long before Helen’s secret is discovered and met with stern disapproval from her family and Annie. As pressure mounts, the lovers plot to elope, and Helen is caught between the expectations of the people who love her and her most intimate desires.
Richly textured and deeply sympathetic, Sultan’s highly inventive telling of a story Keller herself would not tell is both a captivating romance and a rare glimpse into the mind and heart of an inspirational figure.
The astonishing and imaginative debut novel about Helen Keller and the man she loved
What comes to mind when you think of Helen Keller? Is it the deaf-mute wild child at the water pump outside her Tuscumbia, Alabama, home portrayed in The Miracle Worker or the adult activist for the rights of the disabled and women, the socialist who vehemently opposed war? Rosie Sultans debut novel imagines an intimate part of Kellers life she rarely spoke or wrote about: her one and only love affair.
Peter Fagan, a reporter from Boston, steps in as her secretary when her companion Annie Sullivan falls ill. The world this opens up for her is not the stuff of grade school biographies. Their affair meets with stern disapproval from Annie and from Helens mother, and when the lovers plot to elope, Helen is trapped between their expectations and her innermost desires. Sultans courageous novel insists on Helens right to desire, to human frailtyto be fully and completely alive.
About the Author
Rosie Sultan earned her MFA at Goddard College and won a PEN Discovery Award for fiction. A former fellow at the Virginia Center for the Arts, she has taught writing at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, and Suffolk University. She lives with her husband and son in Brookline, Massachusetts.