Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Review: The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

If you are looking for a powerful, emotional, character-driven novel, then look no further than The Help. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the middle of the Civil Rights movement (1962-1964ish), Stockett's novel paints a magnificiant portrait of three main characters: Miss Skeeter - the wealthy young white woman, Aibeleen - the experienced, yet bold black maid, Minny - the strong black maid with the amazing cooking and smart mouth. The narration in this novel is shared by these three women and Stockett truly excells at giving each woman a unique voice, complete with different speech patterns and spellings of words to indicate accent and vocal variety. By showing the events from three different points of view, the reader gets a complete picture of the volatile environment in which these characters exist and really feel their anger, embarrassment, shame, and fear right along with them.
At the same time that other white members of her Junior League are building separate bathrooms in the carport for the colored help to use so they don't pick up any "Nigra diseases," Miss Skeeter is a white woman who finds herself asking questions about why the black men and women of Jackson are treated they way they are and why they have to continue to just accept it as the norm. She begins on a quest to share the stories of "the help," the hired maids of Jackson, through a series of interviews with women. You will find yourself cheering for your three champions and relishing in their victories over their "white women" and crying at their defeats, fears, and tragedies.
The Help discusses common human decency and the question of why we treat one another the way we do, whether it is based on the color of our skin, the money in our bank account, the level of our education, or the brand name on our clothes. The question the author raises is if we have, in fact, moved beyond the days of Jackson in the 1960s or if the same prejudices continue under another name. Great book!

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