The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Published Amy Einhorn Books 2009
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle ebook
This is her first book!
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.
This is the second time I’ve picked up this book. The first time I was going to listen to the audiobook (narrated by Viola Davis) and just fell out of listening, as I often to do with audiobooks. However, the story has been following me ever since that, so I decided to pick up the physical book and give it a go!
The Help is an insanely beautiful story. It’s told from three points of view – Skeeter, Abilieen, and Minny. I loved all three of them, almost equally. Skeeter chapters were probably my favorite, as I related to her story of wanting to be a writer and struggling with women’s rights and being a more work-focused person rather than focusing on her romantic relationships. Her story was so interesting and unique that I really loved her. Abilieen was a heartbreaking character. I loved her relationship with Mae Mobley and her overall perspective. It was something not many authors could probably deliver very well, but I really enjoyed it. Minny was not as strong of a presence as the other two, but her chapters really packed a punch in the way that Abilieen’s couldn’t, mostly because of who they were helping. I loved all the secondary characters too – I felt so concerned for Ms. Celia’s problem, I loved watching Mae Mobley develop, and all the drama between the white women was just so realistic and funny.
The plot of this story takes a little while to pick up, but the characters are the essential hook here. When the three women finally cross paths and begin on their epic journey, it really is incredible to watch unfold. I liked how everything tied together at the end to really bring together a very powerful story. The setting of the 1960s South was very enjoyable. I don’t know how realistic this is (and I’ve seen quite a few reviews scolding the book for not being realistic, neither in setting or characteristic). There were some historical events tied in, such as Martin Luther King Jr, the March on Washington, and the sit ins. Other than that, I enjoyed the book for being fiction. I was not expecting a true story from this, but just a good read that I hoped would provide me with something to think about.
The message of this book is that we are all alike and that our skin color does not separate us. This may seem like a strange topic for these days, but I really think it is important to extend this metaphor. I think the best showing of this is how Skeeter embraces Abilieen, Minny, and all the other maids that help her. It’s a really nice community that they form. The message gets across very well and it’s done beautifully, while not being subtle. What the message is is quite obvious, but the book, for me, was mostly about the characters and less about the meaning.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I think it is a beautiful story told by interesting characters that feel like real people and is definitely worth a read for anyone interested.