May 27, 2011

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help

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 inside 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.

Yes, I know, here I am talking about yet another book being made into a movie! How did I find this one you ask? Why, watching movie trailers of course!

The story revolves around a group of women whose lives are intertwined set in Mississippi in the early 1960s. The topic of the story fascinates me. I love stories of average women throughout history. The women that made this world what it is today. THIS is one such book that tells of the women who lived through this time. The limits placed on them by the society they lived in, and how their influence worked to change it, either by action or inaction on their part. (Do not get me started on how inaction can actually change history because I could talk for days on that)

There are two groups of women if we must separate them - the white women and their black maids. These maids often worked for the same families for years, taking care of the family, raising the children, cleaning the houses. As children we do not see color until we are taught to.

BEST quote
"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize , we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."
One of the most touching character of this story is Aibileen, a black maid working for Elizabeth, a woman who is too wrapped up in herself and trying to make everything perfect in her life to appreciate and love her child, Mae Mobley. We watch little Mae and her bond with this strong woman from the time she is a baby till she is in preschool. Aibileen tells Mae little stories. The one that made me giggle the most was about Martian Luther King. (YES T I spelled it right) You see, Martian Luther King came down from Mars looking for peace but people did not like listening to him much because he was green. What a beautiful way to explain to a small child the uphill battle Rev King had on both sides of the color line.

You see, many people were too afraid of change, afraid of losing what they had. Blacks were afraid for their lives and rightfully so. Whites were afraid of losing their position in society or being seen as freaks or losing their jobs. They would be shunned by the good Christian people of their town, many of whom they had known all their lives.

This story starts off showing what the characters lives are like, introducing you to a large cast. Do not be intimidated. Each character chapter has its own unique voice. The main characters are Abeline, Skeeter and Minny.

Basically something big happens and Skeeter, a white out of place woman, decides to try to write a book. The topic she chooses is what life is like for a black maid. But first she has to get a black maid to agree to tell her the truth.

Sounds simple right? No these were dangerous times and people just did not talk about this situation. Over time Skeeter is able to get several maids to tell her their stories in secret. Skeeter has to hide everything from her family and her friends for fear of being shunned and worse for fear of what the white community would do these black maids.

Now you might think all the stories the maids tell are bad. They are not.
Some are uplifting stories of generosity by their employers during hard times. Stories of love for these children they raised. Stories of faith and most of all hope for the future they see in the eyes of the children, both theirs and the ones of the families they work for.

I was moved to tears many times in this book and often found myself choking from laughing so hard. Most of all this book made me say WOW! It was so good. I recommend everyone go read it. It has that girl power feel of books like the Ya Ya Sisterhood and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

Even today this is not an easy topic to discuss. History books do not portray the people from this time on either side of the color line with clarity. I think the important thing to take away from this is that bad and good comes in all shades and that sometimes you cannot change the minds of some stubborn people by altering laws. Much like the fight for equality for women this "battle" of perception is not over, we can only hope that with each generation it gets better .

If you do give it a read or if you have read it let me know what you thought.

I also hope that for fans of the book the movie people did it justice. I plan on going to see the movie and I will let you know what I think!


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