The Help – Kathryn Stockett

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

the helpSynopsis

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.

My Thoughts

I greatly enjoyed this book. I am severely uninformed on any manner of American history – including the civil rights movements, and anything to do with the south. While I understand that this is a work of fiction, this book gave me some insights into what it was like in the south in the 1960s – or, at least, a small snippet of what it was like in Jackson, Mississippi.

Written from the perspective of three women, as they go about their daily business, we see them come together to create something bigger – to do something they’ve all been told they shouldn’t do – to tell their stories candidly. And that they do, so candid, in fact, many of the locals fly right into a nervous breakdown for fear of being discovered as being part of the project. That was fun to read.

Skeeter is incredibly idealistic – which is what sets the whole thing in motion. It’s quite a feat, not only to create a tell-all book from the perspective of the domestic help, but to reach for goals and achievements she’d been told she couldn’t accomplish, because she was a woman. In a city where women are born and bred to be married off for money, Skeeter wants to do something more – be something other than a “married woman”. It is this drive that sets the tone for her character growth throughout the book. She is determined, persistent, and quite fed up with the status quo. Good for you, Skeeter, you go girl!

Minny, by far, offers the most entertainment in the book. She’s feisty, sassy, and she doesn’t put up with nonsense. She’s a good mom, who puts the welfare of her children ahead of anything else, and a good friend to Aibileen, whom she’d do anything for. She’s a fascinating woman, and her tales are very interesting to read, especially when it pertains to the craziness she gets involved with as she works for Miss Celia. I loved getting to know her character.

Aibileen is definitely the logical, level-headed character of the trio. While sick to death of putting up with racist nonsense, she still has bills to pay, and friends to watch out for – including Minny and all her little ones. But, when push comes to shove, there is nothing to stop her – she’s a force of nature unto herself. Skeeter sees this, knows this. As we come to an incident, which is the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back, Aibileen is right done with the whole lot of southern society ladies, and decides it’s time her story were told.

As the trio make their way through their lives, writing this tell-all book in secret, we see a connection, a bond, even friendships develop in a time when these individuals were told they should have nothing to do with each other. Others become involved, and a tiny project that had no hope transforms into an incredible piece of insight into the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of being the help.

This book is not light-hearted reading. There are some moments, some passages, some hints of dialogue, that make me feel sick to my stomach. I kept thinking to myself, “How do you speak to another human being this way?”, then I’d have to remember – that’s the way some people thought was proper. That’s the way some people still think is proper. That does not mean this is right.

Despite these stomach-churning moments, I couldn’t put the book down. I needed these characters to tell their stories. I was desperate and hopeful that their situations would change, that things would get better, that they’d finally be free of the bullshit and nonsense that southern ideologies were spouting at them.

This is not entirely a feel-good book, but damn, did it feel good to see these characters have their say, speak their minds, and give what was coming to those who treated them so horribly.


~ by Aubrey Smith on July 21, 2015.

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