The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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.
Back when I started Isle of Books, over 5 years ago (wow!), many, many people told me I needed to read The Help. To which I agreed, but then never got around to reading it until now.
I can see why it got so much attention. This was a great book! Really hard to put down. I ended up staying up super late one night to finish it. I really liked all three viewpoint characters, though I wish Minny had had more chapters. Skeeter and Abileen definitely got more “screen time”. But all three characters were interesting and had a unique voice. The multiple narratives kept the story moving along quickly. I also liked that this novel didn’t have a pat, happy ending. Life is messy, as the women discover while working on their project.
The atmosphere and sense of place are a strong point of this novel. I could see the town of Jackson, Mississippi and the people and feel the sticky heat of the south. I can’t wait to see the movie interpretation, hopefully they did justice to this wonderful book! I read the move tie-in edition of this book and I have to say, I think Emma Stone will be a great Skeeter!
On a side note, I can’t believe this was the author’s first book. That kind of makes me a little sad. This was such a wonderful book that hit all the right notes, it’s unbelievable that this was a first novel. Most first novels are passably good with room for improvement. I seen Kathryn Stockett hasn’t published another book since The Help. I wonder how it will compare, hopefully it won’t be a sophomore slump!