Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist.
Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being.
Under Winifred’s care Margaret’s health improves beyond everyone’s expectations, and Winifred begins to learn from Margaret what it means to be alive. After all, she has a lifetime of experience to pass on – and in a world where youth is the ultimate prize, perhaps it takes a robot to recognise the value of old age.
But how will Winifred use what she learns from Margaret – and what does she truly want from her?
This book was perfection with a beautiful cover.
The author considers a world where the first convincing androids have been created and are now responsible for caring for the elderly in care homes – this premise was enough to draw me in. In my time, I’ve worked in a care home and witnessed how depressing and pointless they can be. The idea of an intelligent and (synthetically) compassionate being that will look after our most vulnerable members of society without losing patience, getting bored or fed up with the rubbish working conditions lit up my imagination.
The book doesn’t explore this idea to any terrifying extremes, which makes it all the more meaningful in my mind. Obviously it’s not going to be altogether wholesome in content otherwise there wouldn’t be a story but it’s very thoughtful rather than catastrophising. It’s written from the perspectives of Margaret, an elderly lady who was dying with dementia, Winifred the synthetic being assigned to her care and Margaret’s son, John. The writing style is warm and compelling, you come to understand the characters even if you don’t agree with all of them.
The most beautiful thing about this book is that the synthetic humans consider the elderly to be the pinnacle of humanity – people grow into their wisdom but ironically this happens around the same time their families are no longer able to support their needs. It’s by talking to Margaret and seeing how she views the world around her that Winifred is able to understand what it truly means to be a human.
There’s some quality sci-fi ponderings over what this would mean, once synthetic humans are accepted into society to do all the jobs that people don’t want to do, perfect for readers who are either new to or not fond of sci-fi as a genre. This is a story about people understanding each other rather than hardcore science and robots.
Thank you NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.