The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I have been waiting to read this book since it was released in February 2009. I finally got the chance to read it in all of it’s 444 pages of well-written glory, and I was not disappointed. I cannot believe that this is Kathryn Stockett’s first novel. It is not written like a first novel. This is crafted as if by a seasoned novelist. But I think it is because of the story Stockett is telling. She is writing of the segregation in the South in the 1960’s. Specifically, she is writing of segregation in Jackson, Mississippi. This is where she grew up, and her family knew of these circumstances. The characters in this book where a mish-mash of characters she knew or that her family knew, and this book is written (I think) as an apology to someone who was very special to her…to the woman who raised her and helped her family.
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. -(taken from the author's website)When I finished this book this morning, I had to stop and think about it for a good, long while. I literally had all kinds of emotions and didn’t quite know what to do with them. I had to sort them out. I think that is what Ms. Stockett was hoping for.
I have a good friend reading this book now, so I will be careful in saying this: The ‘project’ mentioned in the above summary is GENIUS. I am so glad these women came together to put it together and I am glad it turned out the way it did. But the fear they had - and the fear I had - that they would be caught in the process was so intense! It is what kept me reading well into the night and when I should have been doing a million other things…I can’t really say much more than that without throwing out the ever-awful *spoilers* so I will stop there. But I WILL say that I read this book in less than 48 hours. Which has left me exhausted today! I am not sorry. I am amazed by the story inside this book. I am thankful that this kind of life does not exist today, or at least not to my knowledge. I realize that we still have a long way to go, as people, to be kinder to one another and to accept one another for who we are. If I had not read this book, I am not sure that I would have had this perspective on this particular slice of life. I am so thankful that I was persistent and took the time and read it. I will recommend it to everyone that I can because not only was it wonderful, and not only was it book club-worthy, and not only was it entertaining, but it is a story that should be told.
This is without a doubt up near the top of my list of favorite and remarkable recent literary works. I really just don’t know what else I can say about it. That is all.