Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Also reviewed by Mindy and Heather.

Summary:  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. 
(Image from and summary from book jacket.)

My Review:  I'm going to admit right now that I didn't blast through this the way it seems most do.  I just had this foreboding feeling that nagged at me until about two-thirds the way through the book.  Until that point I found myself avoiding reading and worried (yes, I know it's fictional) about the outcome of the characters. I would attribute this attachment to the characters to Kathryn's great writing.  The dialect feels natural and authentic, the characters three-dimensional and endearing. Once I got past the first two-thirds I rushed through it like going over a waterfall.  At that point I couldn't put it down.

The divisive force of racism, for me, was the strongest message.  And for Skeeter, tragically so.  How do you accept the fact that the people you've known and loved your whole life are so polarly different from you in their beliefs about equality?  And then, once you do realize, and they realize the differences, how do you move on with your life?  Knowing so few actually agree with you, being a woman from the South, without a set path for your future, has to be heartbreaking.  Throw in two women from the other perspective, one who wants to love despite being hated, and the other who's grown to hate and you have an amazing, moving story.

I loved the story.  I loved the message.  I can only wish that more would read this book, feel the empathy for others that we either don't allow ourselves to feel or are blind to feeling through self-absorption.  Change is not easy, but I can only imagine this story would help open eyes or reinforce kindness in everyone who reads it. 

The book doesn't wrap up perfectly, but that's another aspect that makes it feel right.  There's enough closure to the character's lives that you leave feeling content.  I will definitely be passing this book along to any and all who will read it.

Rating: 5 Stars

Sum it up: Eloquently written, touching on both the beauty and the cruelty of the Southern racial experience of the 1960's, The Help stays with you.

Also reviewed by Mindy and Heather.


TisforTonya said...

Loved this book as well. I chose it as my book club selection over the summer and fully enjoyed seeing the ladies' reactions to the big chocolate silk pie I'd baked for dessert. :)

MindySue said...

OH "T", I don't know you, but I love you already. Kari, I'm glad you liked it!

Anne Bennion said...

Finally got my hands on a copy of the book and adored it! I have to admit I had a hard time with the dialect for the first couple of pages because I am an English nerd and hate grammar mistakes. Once my brain could be convinced that the dialect was needed for character development, I was able to enjoy this book and could hardly put it down.

StephTheBookworm said...

Wow, sounds like this book really touched you! I love books that can really get to you like that. I've got this book on my shelf and look forward to reading it soon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! for sharing, sounds good.


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