Sunday, September 25, 2011
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I'm not one to read a book just because it is the latest obsession, or a NYT Bestseller. In fact, I mostly picked up The Help just because I was sick of my friends, my mom, and my friend's moms urging and nagging me to read this so-called "great" piece of literature. So I read the first few pages, and immediately noticed the excellent writing style. So I read more. Actually, I read the whole thing. And if you don't know what it is about...
It is 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. Aibileen is a black maid who is raising her 17th white child, and is becoming more upset about the way things are in the world. Her best friend Minny has just been fired from her job as a maid (again) and has just taken a new job with a mysterious and troubled woman. And Skeeter is a white socialite who has just graduated from collage and dreams of being a writer, but her mom urges her that finding a husband is more important.
Skeeter takes more notice about how wrong blacks are treated in Jackson, and decides to write a book of interviews taken from various black maids in town. She asks Aibileen and Minny for help with the book, and the 3 women band together to work on this dangerous and controversial project. The stakes are high, but making even a little difference just might be worth it.
This book is certainly worthy of all the buzz and credits it has gotten, and the blockbuster movie that was based off it. Stockett has created lovable characters who each have their own unique voice as they narrate the story. Aibileen is the wise soul, Minny is bold, and Skeeter is observant and thoughtful. Their points of view all blend together to create a nicely-told tale. Miss Hilly Holbrook, the antagonist, was especially snaky and easy to hate. Stuart, who is Skeeter's beau for a good part of the story was a bit of a let down. It is always kind of sad when a relationship that developed through most of the story fails. But it was certainly understandable and Skeeter became even more independent in the resolution.
The Help has both humorous and dark bits intertwined in it. A reader may laugh out loud and then shudder a few chapters later. It's message is empowering and somewhat beautiful. Be warned that it has an open ending, and the final pages are bittersweet. But that was perfectly fine with me. This is a pretty good book, and is worth your time.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Funny, jarring, notable. This is a special book.