Thursday, January 13, 2011

THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett

Reading The Help is like a personal tour behind the headlines of 1962 Mississippi. Told from three points of view: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter's, this story is in turn humorous, heartwarming, and incredibly sad.
Skeeter comes home after graduating from Ole Miss and finds she's begun to view the status quo in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, through the eyes of an outsider. The petty cruelties some of her friends inflict on their Negro maids stands out sharply in Skeeter's new view of her hometown.
Aibileen has spent most of her life working for white women in Jackson. She's a keeper of secrets, a compassionate woman, and a grieving mother.
Minny is mouthy, stubborn, and one of the best cooks in town--when she’s not being fired for being outspoken.
The Help brings these three women together in a relationship that changes all of their lives. One of the interesting sidelights to the novel is the way Stockett makes historical events come alive by showing the reactions of the characters as they live through Rosa Parks' courageous bus ride, the murder of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and President Kennedy's assassination.
I don't want to make The Help sound like a political novel--it's not. It's a look at three women who come to understand and care for one another despite the vast cultural barriers of the times. It is said that the mark of a great story is one that makes the characters so real you think they're alive. After I finished reading The Help I thought about Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny for days--wondering how their lives went after the book ended.
I can't recommend The Help highly enough. It was on the best-seller lists for a couple of years, and with good reason. It’s one of the best books I've read in a long time, and will go into my "keeper" collection.
(The Help is general market fiction, so it does contain a minor amount of mild profanity.)


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