08 November 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

What a good book.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, The Help looks at the complicated relationship between the black hired help and those for whom they work.

The story primarily focuses on three women:

Smart Aibileen who raises and loves the babies of the white women who hire her. She works until she glimpses "her children's" first realizations that "the help" are supposed to be treated differently from others like themselves.

Sassy Minny is Aibileen's best friend and works oh-so-hard to hold her tongue when faced with stupidity.

Then there is Miss Skeeter. Her mother prefers that she answer to Eugenia.

When Miss Skeeter returned from her years at Ole Miss having not been proposed to she is determined to find a place for herself even if it isn't the place that others would chose for her.

A stroke of luck places Skeeter on the payroll of a local newspaper to write household tips for the readers. Trouble is...Skeeter has no practical knowledge in that area. Her need for such information brings her to the mercy of Aibileen, the maid of her best friend. That relationship is then tested as Miss Skeeter determines it is time to really explore the world of "the help".

The story romps along from point to point. Readers area also introduced to a few other characters whose stories will engage and entertain.

While the subject of the book chronicles a dangerous quest by these women the end of the book wraps up pretty nicely; a bit too nicely given the realities of the times. This will upset some readers and will please others. I, of course, was happy. I mean, this is fiction after all. Weaving what appears to be a happier-than-might-have-been ending is okay with me.
The point of the book is still apparent and that is what is most important. As someone who was born in the late 60s it is difficult to imagine living in such a time where people were treated differently only because of the color of their skin. I am so thankful for how far we've come today. Racial injustice is disgusting in all its forms. It is embarrassing and disheartening to realize that such things as this book explores were still occurring as little as 40-some years ago. I appluad Kathryn Stockett for exploring the subject, especially since it is one that is close to her family who resides in the south.

The book however, is a delight. Stockett managed to give us a glimpse into the time by manner of a fictional foray.


Updated to add:

This book is being made into a film.
The release date is set for August 2011.

The Help (film) < click here

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