“The Helpline” (Atria Books), by Katherine Collette
Being an expert in mathematics is a useful skill in extremely small circles. Life gets complicated for the math genius when you lose your job and are forced to find traditional work in the real world. In her debut novel, “The Helpline,” Katherine Collette follows an eccentric woman with zero people skills who reluctantly finds herself in the arms of a supportive community.
Germaine Johnson loves math, Sudoku puzzles and structure. When she loses her job at an insurance company, Germaine is forced to take whatever position she’s offered. Not many mathematicians have answered calls at the Senior Citizens Helpline, but Germaine is determined to make her mark at City Hall.
The mayor notices Germaine’s drive to function in a manner that is both effective and efficient. The way she handles the people on the other end of the phone line is very black and white. And that’s exactly the kind of person the mayor needs for her special project.
A parking lot is the cause of a feud between the senior center and the incredibly handsome Don Thomas, who manages the golf club next door. The mayor is on Don’s side, therefore, Germaine must find a solution to rid the town of the dilapidated center using logistics and numbers.
The math is easy for Germaine, and it doesn’t hurt that she gets to work close to Don. But when Germaine gets to know the employees at the center and the colorful array of people who take part in the daily activities, she begins to wonder if she’s on the right side of this fight. Is there more to life than hard data and numbers?
“The Helpline” is a fun read, full of unique characters. It questions what it means to be fully content in life. Through Germaine’s career change, we learn that even though life can be calculated, you have to consider the heart as a factor in the equation. Otherwise, your results could be skewed.