Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Also reviewed by Heather

Summary: 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 insider 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. (Summary from book jacket - picture from amazon.com/uk)

My review: It is 3PM and I’m still in my pajamas. Oh, I stopped for breakfast, lunch, and a visit from Miss Kim, but I’m still wearing my glasses and no makeup. I might have brushed my teeth. I don’t remember. My hair is bunched in an untidy mess at the back of my head. I need to work out. I need to SHOWER. I haven’t done any of that though. The only thing I’ve managed to do is finish reading the most AMAZING book—a book so AMAZING, in fact, that I’m going to have to Shift=F7 the word AMAZING so that I don’t over use it. The Help is remarkable, incredible, startling, marvelous, staggering , exceptional (well, you get the idea) and is also quite possibly one of my favorite books ever. Its pages just simmer with heart, soul, and sassy tell-it-like-it-be women who, despite their own trials, are fighting against the societal mores that keep them "in their place".

The Help is the story of Aibileen and Minny—two black domestic servants who each deal differently with the hardships of housekeeping and white-child-rearing in the 1960s. Aibileen, used to keeping her head down, is sick and tired of raising children who only grow up to treat her like trash. Minny, a take-no-crap-from-nobody kind of woman—freshly fired from her last job for being too uppity—is trying to find someone, anyone, who will hire her. The best part of this book was sharing the everyday lives, loves, losses, hopes and fears of these women and other women like them who spend their lives raising other women’s children only to have them grow up just like their mothers--cooking other women’s food but not being allowed to eat at the same table--and cleaning other women’s toilets (despite being unable to use them themselves). Enter Eugenia Phelan, aka Skeeter, a white woman, just out of college, longing to be a writer, and disillusioned with the prejudices she begins to see are held by her close family and friends. Each woman tells a separate story that slowly twines together as they embark upon what is quite possibly the most brave thing they have ever done.

This book was able to pull so many different emotions out of me. I was alternately ashamed and proud (for no good reason). I wanted to laugh, cry, and scream with rage. And the suspense, OH the SUSPENSE!! You wouldn’t think a book about housekeepers could be suspenseful but I have to tell you—it about killed me toward the end.

While The Help would make a wonderful movie, it is not frilly chick lit or a light YA romance—it has teeth and real grit to it. Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter are powerfully moving women with depth, personality, and honest emotion that compels you to read out of a sense of personal obligation to the story itself. If you liked The Secret Life of Bees, you’ll LOVE this book! If you READ this book, you will LOVE this book!

My rating: If I could give a book 6 stars, I would. But I can’t, because it would throw off my whole dang system. So, 5 Stars.

If you’re a sensitive reader this book contains three things you might want to keep in mind:
1) a graphic miscarriage. I'd recommend waiting if this topic is difficult for you.
2) a creepy man exposes himself, briefly, to two women. It was bizarre.
3) a story about pie. I can’t tell you why, but you’ll never forget it. I guarantee it.

Sum this book up in one phrase: I adored this book in every single luscious detail.

2 comments:

Maria said...

Well, you did it. I read this review and went straight to my online library account and put a hold on this book. You gave me "The Secret Life Of Bees" a few years back--remember? I'm looking forward to this one. (But am nervous about the "sensitive" parts. I'm sure I can handle it--right?)

Heather said...

WOW! I hope you finally returned this to the library! ;)

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