Friday night I finished an amazing book. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is one of those books you fall in love with right away and it never disappoints. I have been hearing a lot of buzz about this book over the past couple months. I first heard about it from an online newsletter I get from the public library in my town. Then I read about it on a couple of blogs (I can't remember which ones or I would link them here. If it was your blog, I apologize for that). And then last week it was featured on The Today Show segment - Spring into a Good Book. As you can imagine, my anticipation and excitement to read this book just kept growing as I heard more and more great things about it. Sometimes when that happens I end up very disappointed (The Art of Racing in the Rain), but not this time. This book definitely lived up to its reputation. If any of you are in a book club and need a good title, I recommend The Help.
The Help, which is Kathryn Stockett's debut novel (!), takes place in the early 1960's in Mississippi. This is during the time of the Jim Crow laws regarding segregation of the races. The novel is told from the view points of three women - 2 black maids (Aibiliene and Minny) and one young, wealthy, white woman. Skeeter Phelan has just graduated from Ole Miss and much to her mother's dismay did not find a husband while a student there. She is now back living at home in Jackson, Mississippi and hoping to become a writer. Upon the advice of a New York editor, she sets out to write something that "really matters to her" and that hasn't already been written by someone else. She decides to write a collection of stories of the black maids of Jackson - in their own words. She wants to write the "true stories about maids and their experiences waiting on white families." As you can imagine the black maids are at first petrified to tell their stories to Skeeter. If they are caught, losing their jobs would be the least of their worries. Blacks are commonly beaten in Jackson for using the "white" toilet (even in error) or sitting at the wrong lunch counter. Eventually, 13 maids consent to tell Skeeter their stories for her book. These tales give the reader a personal view into the minds and lives of these maids that is heartwarming, tender and also filled with fear, humiliation and self-sacrifice. Through the telling of these stories, the reader is transported to a time before the Civil Rights Movement and is witness to the maids' and Skeeter's attempt to make a change in society - however small. The Help is a terrific book. One of the best I've read so far this year!