Sunday, July 31, 2011
Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Source: Personal Copy
The Help is an astounding debut novel told from three very different perspectives. Kathryn Stockett has produced a modern classic of hope, courage, and independence. Once readers dive in, they will immediately be captivated and taken for an emotional ride, not wanting to miss a page. Readers are brought to Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960’s and prejudices are an everyday norm. The civil rights movement is in full bloom. Skeeter, a recent Ole Miss graduate is trying to make it as a journalist, and being a woman makes it that much more impossible. She’s offered a homemaker column, but knows nothing about cleaning. Hoping to write a more substantial topic, Skeeter receives some great advice from a woman in publishing- she is told to write about a topic that hasn’t been written before. Skeeter has a vision to expose the treatment of black maids in the white households. Raised by a black maid, she knows the impact these maids have on the children. Skeeter is appalled when her friends begin to install separate out-door bathrooms for the maids-insisting that it is needed to prevent diseases. Coming out and telling her friends that this is wrong, would surely cast her out of the community. Knowing that this project could potentially endanger those involved, Skeeter will publish anonymously. However, encouraging the maid’s to speak will not be an easy task. Aibileen is the first to agree to assist with the project, and eventually Aibileen is able to onboard Minny. Both maids’ are skeptical since they are unveiling stories from Skeeter’s world, many of them close friends but they bravely go forth with the project as tensions rise in their communities.
I bought this book when it first came out, but I kept putting off reading it. I’m not sure why exactly, maybe I was cynical of all the hype but I’m so sorry that I waited so long. This book has spent many weeks on the bestseller list, and deservingly so. Kathryn Stockett is an incredible writer, with a fascinating ability to engage readers. From the first page, to the last I was rooting for Skeeter. Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter were all in my thoughts when I closed the book. I loved Skeeter’s independence and defiant nature, especially given the times. When her mother is insisting she settle down and marry, Skeeter doesn’t want to settle. She dreams of a different world, but needs to remain central in her world. She’s pulled in two directions, and risks everything. Aibileen and Minny are not as sullen as you would expect. There was never a dull moment, and I read compulsively. If you’ve been putting this book off, I suggest you pick it up and being the first few pages…you’re going to be hooked. I do admit, the end was not what I wanted but honestly but that doesn’t make this any less of a novel.