Friday, August 21, 2009
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
If you haven't heard of this book, then it's time you learned. It is by far one of the best books of 2009 and bound to become a classic, one to be taught in high school English classrooms for years to come.
The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s at the start of the civil rights movement. In Jackson, however, you'd never know there was a civil rights movement because Jim Crow is still alive and kicking with no end in sight.
Three different characters narrate this story in first person point-of-view:
Aibileen: a black maid in her 60s who prefers to work with families with young children.
Minny: a younger black maid who seems to get fired from jobs for talking back (or worse) to her employers.
Skeeter: a single, white, twenty-something aspiring journalist fresh out of college who comes from an old-money, old-south family and yet sees the injustice of how African Americans are treated.
Skeeter witnesses firsthand the way her friends treat their maids and has decided to solicit these women to tell their stories in a book she wants to write about black domestic help in Mississippi. Fearing their jobs and their lives, at first the women refuse, but as the story progresses, they slowly start to have a change of heart when they realize they could be part of something historic.
Let me just tell you that this is a book that stays with you even after you put it down. I found myself setting the book aside, only to have all of these characters creep into my thoughts while I was making dinner, taking a shower, or watching TV. And it's not just the strength of the characters that make you want to read; it's also the strength of Stockett's prose whose words just coat your insides like warm honey.
Giving its rather unassuming appearance (I know; berate me. I do actually judge a book by its cover), this was a book I never would have read on my own. What convinced me to pick it up was all of the people on message boards and other blogs raving about it and talked about what a masterpiece it was. And to date, I have yet to read a bad review of this book because everyone who read it, loves it. So if you haven't read it yet, it's time you, too, became a lover of The Help.