Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
What a wonderful book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, The Help. Its 1962 and we are introduced into the lives of Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter, three strong female characters who choose to make a difference in their lives and others by creating a book that tells the truth. Aibileen and Minny are two strong Black women working in the homes of the affluent white women of Jackson, Mississippi. They are entrusted with the chores of raising the children and cleaning the house. Aibileen has raised 17 children during her lifetime of working as a maid and each child has held a special place in her heart. Minny, on the other hand, finds it hard to maintain a job because of her inability to keep quiet when her bosses insult her. Skeeter, is white and just graduated from college and should be looking for a spouse (according to her mother), but finds herself distancing herself from her friends at the junior league due to their racist attitudes (especially when her best friend decides to create an issue regarding toilets - she believes that every home should have a separate toilet for the staff, because Black people carry diseases) and her desire for something different out of life. When Skeeter becomes Mrs. Myrna for the local paper and requires Aibileen's help for the articles, she begins to get to know Aibileen a bit better and winds up teaming up with her to work on an independent project. Skeeter and Aibileen, with the help of Minny and ten other maids, write a book that provides an inside look at the lives of Black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. Skeeter changes certain details in the book, like the true location and the identities of the maids and their employers, however, suspicion is rife, when a television show posits how closely the book, Help, resembles some of the local people in Jackson, Mississippi. As a result of these suspicions, some maids are fired from their jobs, or incarcerated under false accusations. Aibileen is fired from her job, but finds herself feeling freer then she has ever felt. Minny winds up leaving her husband for good (after he threatens to kill her - she has endured a marriage that involved domestic violence) and takes her children with her to her sister's home. Skeeter finds a job in New York and finally feels as if her life is about to truly begin. Each woman experiences so much in this book and finds some sort of peace by the end. Its an uplifting book and the ways in which Stockett deals with such serious issues such as, racism, civil rights, domestic violence, and sexism, really showcase her talent as a writer. The writing itself was excellent; I enjoyed the history of the time period, along with the memories each woman shared about their experiences working as a maid, growing up in the south, and their hopes and fears of what was to become of them once their stories were read by all. Each character was wonderfully drawn out and easily accessible, that it was impossible not to fall in love with Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter. I found myself cheering for them in their differing endeavors, which all seemed to be quite similar in the end - hoping for a better future. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to delve into the past and learn about a time when civil rights were emerging onto the scene in a huge way and how three women were capable of creating so much hope for so many people. Its wonderful when fiction can border on the real and leave such a lasting impression on its reader. One of my favorite reads of this year. Can't wait for Stockett to write her next book, as I'm sure that whatever it is will be well written and quite compelling. Happy reading!!