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

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline: The Graphic NovelHave you ever wished you had a different life?

Coraline did. And then her wish came true... Be careful what you wish for.

This book came out in 2002; the film appeared in cinemas in 2009. We were living in England at that time. Our then 13 year old daughter begged to see the film. Of course I said "If you read the book first." And she read the book.

As Halloween has just passed by on the pages of the calendar the story came to my mind. I don't like scary films. Horror isn't my thing. I decided it was time to read Coraline for myself to see what it was all about.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Yes, the story is a bit eerie. But the story is really pretty nice; it definitely carries some themes in its pages.

In the story Coraline visited an alternate world; a world in which things were pretty much a mirror of reality but in which the people had button eyes. At first she was drawn to the world but soon she realized that the life she already had was what she really wanted.

Sometimes we wish for change in our lives when we really don't have it so bad. Coraline felt forgotten by her busy parents. Their busyness, however, had nothing to do with their love for her.
Parents, though, can look at this part of the story as a strong reminder. Yes, we are busy; sometimes unbelievably so. But do we really want to give our children the impression that we are too busy for them? At times in the past I have used reminders such as this to wake myself to the point of view of our children. I am going to make an extra effort, starting now, as I have in the past, to stop what I am doing when one of our many children comes to me with a request. If I truly can not fulfill that request of my time at the moment then I am going to be extra sure to make the time as soon as I finish the task that was at hand. I have always, always been blessed when I have acted in this manner; and I believe our children have to.

I think my favorite line from this book is:

"Coraline slept uneasily that night, waking from time to time to plot and plan and ponder, then falling back into sleep, never quite certain where her pondering ended and the dream began, one ear always open for the sound of something scratching at her windowpane or at her bedroom door.
Now to watch the film with our daughter.
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