Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

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.

My thoughts:
I don't have any real reason why it took me so long to read this book, it seemed like everyone I knew had read it and loved it.  I borrowed it from a friend months ago and read half of it.  I put it down to read some other things and didn't feel a great pull to pick it back up again, then Sunday morning I started where I had stopped and I just couldn't put it down!  I think sometimes the reader needs to be in the right place for the book and I must not have been before.

I purposely tried to picture the characters on my own without letting the casting for the movie influence my vision of them.  I managed okay except for Minny and Aibileen, I kept remembering all the Oscar buzz so I kept seeing the actors for those two, but the rest of them I managed to imagine all on my own.  I know there was some talk about dissatisfaction with the way Stockett had the maids speak, but I didn't feel like it was an issue.  I recall having a bit of trouble with it at the beginning, but then it just became a voice with an accent in my head.

Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen were very well fleshed out.  Some of the other characters felt more like stereotypes, Hilly the mean girl and queen bee who had to have her way, Elizabeth who was willing to be a follower as long as she could fit in and not feel poor, and Celia, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who can't find a way to make friends.  I felt bad for just about everyone at some point but Hilly, there is just something about a bully that really bothers me.  It would be nice to think that at some point we are able to get away from people like that but they just keep popping up. 

I felt like Stockett did a good job with making you really feel like it was the 1960's.  While I know things aren't perfect now, it is a bit heartening to see what strides have been made with civil rights since then and to think that it took so many people working together to make it so.  Reading the part they were each playing in writing a book about how the maids really felt about the white women and families they worked for, I wondered if I would have been that brave at the time.  Skeeter took big risks right along with Minny and Aibileen and her opinion was not the prevailing one.  It cost her socially in big ways.  It is so much easier to go with the flow than to stand up for what you feel is right.

I was sad to see the book end, even though I was racing along to find out how things were going to turn out.  The characters seemed like real people to me and I was sorry to see them go. 

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425232200
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Pages: 544

1 comment:

  1. What a great review. I enjoyed this novel too. I especially like the way you described the strengths and weaknesses of the character development.