"The Help"

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I enjoyed every page of this wonderful book. I met characters I miss now that I've finished the book and I've visited in kitchens I want to go back to, so I'll be reading this one again. It was like a vacation, except that when I closed the book there were still meals to get, laundry to do, etc. It was nice while it lasted.

I'm impressed that this is a first novel and I very much hope it won't be the last. The characters are beautifully written and completely believable. The story is amazing and so very honest. I wanted to step into it at times and slap some people around but that's just me. You may have a more philosophical response to it. Either way, it will get to you. The injustice of the treatment of negro "help" in the South of the early 60's, and their dignity and strength in the face of hypocrisy and often sheer stupidity, will have you reeling from anger to admiration and back again throughout the book.

The basic story is of several white families in Jackson, Mississippi who have black servants. We get to know two of the "help" and one white woman quite well. The story is told in their 3 voices and what I learned about racism made me cringe.
The only white woman you don't want to pummel is called "Skeeter". She decides to write a book about what life is really like for a black woman in service to a family of whites. It's a risk for everyone; these were the days of the KKK and other idiots who took offense at whites who stood with blacks. Her  family and her new boyfriend don't approve, and she is shunned by her friends, but she is determined to finish the book.She had to interview the women in secret, and all were sworn to a vow of silence. Convincing them was difficult, because the girls all know the risk. Job loss was almost a certainty if you were caught. Worse than that, you could be beaten, killed, or imprisoned for stepping over some imaginary line of propriety. And some were.

As difficult as the truth revealed here is to swallow, there is some great story telling. It's a serious topic, but there is comic relief  from  Minnie, who has difficulty controlling her tongue. Most of the characters seem real, especially Aibilene who I admire and wish I knew. I liked that each character was written with strengths and weaknesses, creating people who were complicated and realistic. It made some of them easier to understand and forgive.

 The Pie Incident alone is worth reading the book for. Minny, the feisty,outspoken maid, gets frustrated beyond her limit one day and bakes her boss a pie. That's all I'm saying. You'll have to read it to get the rest.

I fear that someone, someday will make a movie of this book, but I really hope they don't. I can't see how it could be done well enough to do the book justice and that would be a shame. The book is very, very good and I think just about anyone would like it, so I recommend it to all.


Ordinary Reader said...

Update: I just finished reading The Help for the second time, and I loved it every bit as much as I did the first time. As soon as I said in the first post that I hoped a movie wouldn't be made I found out it had already been done and was to be released soon. I hesitated, but when I finally did see it I was impressed with how well it was done. In fact I don't think I've seen many movies that do that kind of justice to the book. The book is still better, which is almost always the case, but the movie was very good.

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