Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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.

Kim's Review: I know I'm a year or two late to the party, but I finally decided to read this book, and now that I've finished it I'm wondering what took me so long. This book is simply extraordinary. These three women's stories are amazing, and I loved following them on their journey throughout the book. It took me a few chapters to adjust to Minny and Aibileen's sections being written in Southern dialect, but once I got used to it I got really attached to the characters.

I don't know how accurate this book really is, but it was painful to read about the various punishments the African-American citizens of Jackson, Mississippi had to go through. Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter had to live in fear during and after the writing and publication of their book. A few times, they even speculated what would happen to them if they were caught; would they get sent to jail? Beaten? Or worse? 

It was so touching to see how much the Help really loved and cared for the children of their bosses. This is mostly and especially seen through Aibileen's interactions with Mae Mobley, a little girl who is just four years old at the end of the novel. While her racist mother neglects her, Aibileen takes care of her and makes sure she does not grow up to believe the prejudices shown in the world around her. There are a lot sweet moments between the two of them, and it was nice to see how Mae Mobley grew during the three years in which The Help takes place. There are a lot of bittersweet moments in this book, as well as some sad ones (have a box of tissues handy at all times).

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. During the last hundred pages or so, I did not want to stop reading for a minute. I even endured a bit of motion sickness to read it in the car. So, if I was somehow not the last person on Earth to read this book, I totally recommend it!

(P.S. When you're done reading the book, watch the movie. While a few of the minor storylines and characters were omitted, nothing was really changed and it is very true to the book. Quite a few of the lines are taken word-for-word from the novel, which I enjoyed as well.)

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