A friend recommended The Help by Kathryn Stockett to me last Spring. I put it on hold at the local library right away. A scant three months later–obviously a lot of people either had good or bad taste–my number came up and it was in my hands. A few days later someone in my book club suggested we read the book for our group and so I was thrilled to be able to second the recommendation. More than anything, I wanted to be thrilled when I finished the book, however. I’m a bit wary of anything that gets as much hype at this book has.
Plot summary for The Help
Stockett’s novel is set in Civil Rights Era Mississippi. It’s written from the point of view of three main characters. Two are domestics (Minnie and Aibileen) working in the homes of white women and the third (Skeeter) is a single white college educated woman who is trying to find a place for herself within the society. From the first time I saw Skeeter’s name, I was cursed to find myself thinking of Skeet Ulrich every time I was reading about her character.
I was drawn into the story by the first page. It’s written largely in dialect. I love it when the written word is skillfully conveyed this way. Stockett did a masterful job of bringing her characters to life with simple conversation.
Aibileen is a strong woman in her community and when Ms. Skeeter asks for her help in writing the story of the black women of the community and their experience as domestics, she eventually agrees. Minnie is a friend of Aibileen and provides some of the best comedy in the book. The book compiles the stories of many women who are on the margins of this society. It paints a clear picture of what life must have been like in this difficult time.
The women each face different challenges to surviving and thriving in their community. I can’t go into too much of their development without giving away some spoiler, so let me just say that the three women all grow in important ways. Surprise, surprise, right? When was the last time you read a best-selling book in which characters did not triumph over adversity and learn something in the meantime?
Just because it’s a formula doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, though. By the end, life doesn’t change dramatically for these women, but they do learn to take pride in their abilities.
I loved this book from start to finish. I recommend it to everyone who asks me for a suggestion. If you were to ask me what the opposite of this book’s mood is, I’d probably point to something like The Bluest Eye.(reviewed by the World’s Strongest Librarian).
Give it a try! (The Help, not Bluest Eye!)