The Helpline (Katherine Collette, Text)
Germaine Johnson is an insurance probability outcomes mathematician with a burning passion for Sudoku championships. More comfortable with calculus and polynomials than people, the only job she can get post-retrenchment is answering a seniors’ helpline for the local council. ‘What would my key performance indicators be?’ she asks in her interview. Often-hilarious antics ensue as Germaine navigates her way through local government bureaucracy gone mad, and she unwittingly becomes the hero in a fight to save the local senior citizens centre from being closed down in favour of the golf club next door. In the process, she discovers a capacity for friendship she did not know she possessed. Comparisons between Germaine and Don Tillman in Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project are obvious, with both characters displaying autism spectrum conditions, however, the satirical skewering of the everyday operations of local government sets The Helpline apart. The story’s examination of brain power versus people power is delivered with wit and heart. Many readers today are searching for light but clever comic writing with a bit of a punch; they will happily find it in Katherine Collette’s debut.
Scott Whitmont is the owner and manager of Lindfield Bookshop and Children’s Bookshop