Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett


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!


12 comments:

Tammy Howard said...

Oh, this sounds GOOD! Off to add it to my list...

Terra said...

I too have heard a lot about this book. It was GUEST reviewed on my blog but I have not read it yet. I intend to. Soon, I hope.

Mary at My New 30 said...

I am reading this right now - well, I'm listening to it in audio version while I tend to errands and gardening chores - and the audio version with the intonations and varying accents is just delightful! You can really pick up on the personality of each of these women and the side characters as well. There is so much that I want to say about this book, even though I've not finished yet, but I won't hijack your blog like that! Suffice it to say it is definitely a book I would read again. And again! I see you're on another 60's theme for your next book - is that planned or a result of this reading?

Have a great day!

Anita said...

I had added this to my list a month or so ago, but your review makes me want to read it sooner.........Thanks so much. I've got to read faster!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great read. I need more time!!!! I have been reading good things about this book now I will have to certain to add it to my list. So little time ...so many books.....what a wonderful problem to have...

Colleen

Debbie said...

Yay! You know I love a good book recommendation. This one I will add to my TBR list right away.

Alex the Girl said...

Must add that one to my list. It sounds fantastic.

Crystal said...

That sounds great!! Now I have two more on my "To Read" list : )

Pam said...

Everyone - Yes, definitely add this one to your list. It is really THAT good. I'd love to hear what you all think after you've read it. Come on back here and tell me when you're done and tell me what you think.

Mary - PLEASE, please please, feel free to hijack my blog anytime. I'd love to get a great conversation going here in the comments area on this or any post. I love the idea of a back and forth conversation. THAT would be amazing!

Esther said...

Thanks for the review! I've always been interested in the history of the 1960s and the civil rights movement, so this sounds like something I'd be interested in reading.

In a similar vein, have you read "Freshwater Road" by Denise Nicholas? She's an actress who was on "Room 222" and "In the Heat of the Night" and this is her first novel. It's about a young African-American woman from Detroit who goes to the South in the 1960s to register voters. It's based somewhat on Nicholas' own experiences and she evokes that era so well.

Oz Girl said...

Ok, adding this one to the list too!

I'm going to skip The Gargoyle. Not sure that one's for me? I could be wrong...

Triplets Plus Two Momma said...

My book club just finished the World According To Garp and has moved on to "The Help". I am about 30 pages in and already love it!!

 

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