Monday, July 13, 2009

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Summary: 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.

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.
Summary from book jacket, photo from barnesandnoble.com

My Review: To quickly summarize this is the story of the help, referring to black housemaids living in Mississippi in the 1960's. It's their journey and one that will completely engulf you. If you want a more detailed explanation read Mindy's review or the above summary from the book jacket. What I will tell you is that this is an utterly delicious story that will consume you from the opening chapter right through to author's note on the final pages.

Kathrynn Stockett has written this novel in a manner which allows the reader a private journey inside the characters heads. Three main characters tell this story and each chapter is written in their unique voice. The first chapter begins with Aibleen describing herself, "I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning." And in writing as such these brave, humorous, sassy, sensitive, tough, sweet women seem to jump from the pages.

I found myself tangled up within this story, completely engrossed and loving every moment of it. Tears and laughter, love and bitterness, humiliation and pride, it's all within the pages of this book and on so many different levels. It's a riveting story that addresses the ugly issue of discrimination, (not only racism but sexism and social class as well), in a delightfully entertaining manner.

It is a beautifully told story that you'll want to share with others. There is so much to talk about that this is a must pick for book clubs. While this story was based in the 60's, it's easy to see how some of the issues still apply in modern times. It will leave you reexamining the treatment of our fellow human beings, regardless of race or social class.

My Rating: 5 Stars, really not a book you should miss

If I had to sum it up in one phrase it would be: An all-consuming story of three women whose courageous actions confirmed that they had much in common regardless of their skin color.

1 comment:

Adriana said...

i actually found this book boring and slightly racist... i might have to re read it now that i've read your review.

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