Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review: The Help

The Help
Published By: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Release Date: February 2009
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Library
Adult - Historical Fiction

As someone who was born and raised in the South, I have always been drawn into books about the South's history and culture. I have bookshelves cluttered with books on various topics important to the development of the South - both fiction and nonfiction. I moved from the South over the summer to the Pacific Northwest. It was extremely hard to leave behind my entire life - all 28 years of it had been spent in the deep South - for something so drastically different in culture, history, and terrain. As much as I enjoy living in my new home, I have a deep ache for the South. I had seen The Help on many blogs and many friends had said it was one of the best books they had read. When a pang of homesickness hit me hard last week I decided it was time to lose myself in The Help.


Imagine Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's with its sweltering humidity and raging racial tension and you'll be in the right mindset to read this book. Stockett does a beautiful job of writing this story so that it plays out like a movie in your mind. I was swept up in the lives of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minnie as they seek to navigate the current of their hometown. Skeeter, is a early 20's college graduate, who is restless with her life in Mississippi and yearns for more than Jackson can ever possibly offer her. Aibileen and Minnie are strong African American women who work as maids for the white elitist women of Jackson, but they too crave change and something more. The three of them end up working together to write a book that will change their lives for good. I also found myself loving to hate Hilly Holbrook - she's just so evil. Furthermore, I have a soft spot for the character of Celia Foote. There are just so many memorable characters between these pages.


I loved Kathryn Stockett's writing style. I didn't feel like I was reading a book most of the time. I truly felt like I was watching a movie or having a conversation with old friends. I kept greedily reading every word wanting to know more about what was happening to the characters. I found myself in panic mode a few times and had to fight the urge to read ahead. She does a beautiful job of portraying the social and racial hierarchy in the South during this time period. I also loved how this book focused on what the women in the South were doing and not the men. I feel like sometimes women get left out of history.

This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you want to throw things. I was shocked by some of the treatment received by the African American maids. Many of them faced terrible abuse and prejudice, but still managed to hold themselves with grace and poise. These women knew that if they retaliated then their family would suffer. I can't even begin to imagine how terrifying life must have been for women who lived in this time period. I did love seeing the moments were race was erased for some of these characters - if only for the briefest of moments. I loved that Stockett wrote in varying viewpoints between the three main women to give them each a chance to speak their mind and become equals on the page even in a society that said they were anything but equal.

The Help reads like the craft of a well seasoned literary veteran, but I was shocked to learn that it was actually Kathyrn Stockett's first novel. I hope to see many more titles by this author in the future.


One Last Gripe: I hated the ending. I don't want to say too much and ruin anything for people who haven't read it yet, but you will see what I mean when you get to the last chapter. I just felt like I was left hanging. After spending so much time with these characters I wasn't quite ready to let them go and the ending left me with no closure at all.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The characters - they all came alive for me and had authentic voices based on the time period and circumstances

First Sentence: Mae Mobley was born on an early Sunday morning in August, 1960.

Favorite Characters: Skeeter, Minnie, Celia

Least Favorite Characters: Hilly, Leroy



Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
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.



Awesome news for fans of The Help! The book is being made into a movie that will be released in August! Get the scoop here!



8 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it as much as others do. I liked how the multiple POVs tell the story. We get to hear from different people and their backgrounds. Like you, I didn't like the ending. I think it wrapped it up all to nicely. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Rummanah Aasi - Thanks for reading the review and taking the time to comment. I just thought the ending was flat compared to the rest of the book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great review. I loved this book so much. I agree with you that I laughed, cried and cheered through the whole thing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really loved reading The Help!
    It's a great book!

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Lisa & Wander: Thanks for stopping by Reading Lark!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great review! I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but have heard nothing but how good this book is. I can't wait to read it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for a great review! I really want to read this book, even though I know it will be hard to read the parts about racism. As long as the book tells the truth about racism back in the 60s, I think it's important for everyone to read about it, so we don't continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It sounds like a great book- I can't wait to see the movie and get my hands on this book!

    ReplyDelete

We love your comments!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...