“The Help”, by Kathryn Stockett

I was feeling like the only person on Earth who hadn’t read “The Help”, so I took care of that little problem. Wish I hadn’t waited so long!

“The Help” takes place in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s. It’s a tumultuous time and place. Jim Crow laws are still in effect and racial prejudice is overt. But civil rights activists are starting to make some headway on changing the rules and the mindset.

In Jackson, young society matrons have black maids and many black women depend on these jobs to eke out enough income to live on. The maids are privy to all sorts of their employers’ family secrets, raise the white children like their own and are the subjects of bizarre stereotypes and sometimes cruel treatment. It’s a strange arrangement.

The story has three different narrators, each with their own unique voices. First we meet Aibileen, a middle-aged maid who loves raising the children of her employers but tends to move on when these children lose their colorblindness. Minny is another maid who is blunt and angry but also capable of great loyalty. Miss Skeeter is part of the young matron crowd, although an awkward, unmarried fifth wheel. She was raised by her own family’s beloved maid. The three voices are well-written and each character contributes a unique perspective to the story.

Skeeter is an aspiring writer who wants to write a book that will essentially be a collection of stories from a dozen black maids about their experiences working for white families. This was an extremely controversial topic for this time and place and all the participants faced consequences ranging from ostracization to physical violence.

As the three narrators work together on the book, the author creates scenarios that effectively illustrate the heartbreaking impact of racism in 1960s Mississippi. I was really struck by how vulnerable the maids were and how few options they had in their lives. But the novel also provides several examples of friendship and compassion that serve as good reminders about the power of basic human decency.

Overall, I definitely recommend “The Help”.

Have you read “The Help”? What did you think?

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8 thoughts on ““The Help”, by Kathryn Stockett

  1. This is one of my favorite books. I thought the story presented a tough subject and harsh reality of the time with a nice balance of fun moments and likeable characters. This, of course, made the novel a great choice for a movie. The movie didn’t disappoint and it was fun to anticipate a certain “gross out” moment!

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  2. I just finished reading this book. My husband and I both work at a Motel..and a guest had left this book laying on their bedside table. I couldn’t stop flipping through the pages. I felt like I had made friends with the characters, like I knew them. At the end when I was finished, I literally cried. I cried for my friends and wondered what will happen to them now, where will they go from here. I was a little disappointed that the ending left my heat aching with no closure. I found myself worrying about Miss Minny and Aibileen because the ending didn’t tell us much about what happened to them, it just left us wondering and grieving for our beloved new friends. But I loved it..I truly loved it. This is the first book I have ever read that stirred my emotions and made me cry. I highly recommend it to everyone!

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    • Thanks for commenting, Becky. It was definitely a book that evoked a lot of emotion. I know what you mean about the lack of closure. I just assumed everyone would be ok because I insist on happy endings!

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  3. I was also very taken with the depth of the maids’ vulnerability. It’s easy now to forget how dependent black women were on the white women who employed them. Thanks for reminding me about this great book!

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  4. I read The Help years ago but I still remember loving it. As a Southern girl these are definitely some soul searching topics even though my personal family history didn’t include anything similar to what is depicted in the novel. The movie didn’t disappoint either. You and Paul should que it up on Netflix (or on whatever platform it may be offered).

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  5. I also loved the book. I read it several years ago and couldn’t help but be stunned by the irony of how intimate a relationship would be to have someone take care of your precious children, but then not share a bathroom with them. Such an interesting view into life at that time.

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