Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

By now, what has not been said about this number one, top selling novel? That’s more of a statement than a question. I doubt I can say anything that hasn’t been said before. My hope is that if you haven’t read The Help you’ll beg it off your friend, get in the hold line at your library or break down and purchase it because why? Because it is worth it. I know some people have a few complaints that run along the lines of: the ending was anti-climatic or the dialect bothered them. Some more serious complaints are that it’s just one more bash on Mississippi. Even if you finish and wonder what all the fuss is about I promise you won’t be disappointed that you read it.

I wasn’t sure what this book was about when I decided to buy it. I knew it was set in the Southern U.S. during the 1960s and there was something about a lot of women afraid to follow after whatever it was they wanted. And that there would be racial issues thrown in there. This is a terrible summary. However, not knowing what I was in for left me deliciously and delightfully surprised. I didn’t expect to become engrossed by a maid’s daily life. I didn’t expect to laugh out loud on several occasions. I didn’t expect to learn and this novel enlightened me about how complicated the civil rights movement was for many different (but not so different) people.

This book was a pleasure to read. As a rule, I don’t mind dialect but I find it slows my pace down. Truly though, I savored every page. The story alternates between three women’s point of view: one young white woman, one middle-aged black maid and one not-quite-old black maid. I adored all the voices but Aibileen’s (the eldest’s) was my favorite. There is so much tension, anxiety and fear in these women’s lives because of their desire to tell the truth. I felt nervous for them and kept hoping they’d find a way to iron out the wrinkles (hehe. Aibileen hates ironing pleats). I feel this book is a must read for those living in the U.S., perhaps especially my 20-something generation who have grown up in a different era and have little understanding of what daily life was like in the South during the 1960s.

So, I have this great thing called a public library. And mine hosted the author, Kathryn Stockett, who stopped by on her way to the Windy City to speak, read and sign our books! Hearing her speak was a blast. If you have the opportunity to see her, do it! She spoke a bit about her anxieties being a white woman writing in the voice of black women. Stockett had a black maid growing up and this book is her way of expressing many of the things she has learned about what life was like for the help. In case you’re curious, she said two of her favorite authors are Lee Smith and Kaye Gibbons (among many others). She has an awesome southern accent! And in response to a question said that no, she is not Skeeter (the young white protagonist), that she was never as brave as Skeeter or able to ask those kinds of difficult questions when she was a child. I think she was rather brave to write this story, though. Ms. Stockett was gracious enough to let me take my picture with her so, there we are. Now, go get yourself a copy of The Help and settle in for a good read.
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books, 2009     Pages: 451
Rating: 5 Stars                                             Source: Purchased on Amazon


  1. I love books with alternating points of view. I will add this one to my list. Thanks.

  2. I agree, this is a great book!!

  3. This was such a great book. I couldn't put it down. Glad you enjoyed it and got to see Stockett speak!

  4. I see this book EVERYWHERE! But I never really bothered to read the back or look up reviews. Thanks for this review! I might pick it up next time I pass by it :)

  5. I was a bit wary of the hype, but now seeing this I think I will buy it. :)

  6. This book was great; one of those novels you would like to read in one sitting. I was a little girl during the time period of this book, and experienced two African-American maids in our home in NC, both of them spinsters, with personalities more like Minny's. They lived in a huge, unpainted 2-story house "in the woods", and I rode with my Daddy once in awhile when he would take them home after he got home from work.