Friday, March 18, 2011
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
From Goodreads: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.
I love that there was a character that was willing to challenge the status quo and essentially sabotage the life she knew for an issue she felt so strongly about. I was happy that at the end of the novel she wasn’t entirely alone in her thinking (granted she wasn’t openly embraced for it either). I loved how fully developed each of the characters were. I could see the homes of Aibileen and Minny, I could feel the tension in Miss. Lefold’s home and more than a few times felt like shaking Miss. Hilly. Granted I missed the 60’s and certainly didn’t grow up in the South so I do not profess to be an expert on the authenticity or accuracy of the voices in this book, but I can say that it certainly felt authentic to me. Stockett gave her characters voices, some used them for education and enlightenment, some for change, and some to spread hate and lies.
This book brought to life so much emotion for me. I felt the fear and anticipation that the women described as they were writing their book. I felt Minny’s anger, and also Skeeter’s. I felt sorrow when I read the stories of not only how the maids were treated but also how Mae Mobely was treated. But I also felt the love and concern that some of the maids held towards their "white women" and their children. These were such complex relationships and I think that Stockett portrayed them beautifully.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Help and think it is an important reminder that a single voice does have the power to change – however small that change is perceived to be. The Help was one of those rare books that I could have devoured in a sitting but instead forced myself to read it slowly over a week so that I could savor it. The way the Stockett wrote I could actually hear the voices of each character and this captured and held my attention throughout the entire book. There was so much that I loved about this book I don’t even know where to begin.
I borrowed this book from the library