Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Release Date: February 10, 2009
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5
It’s the summer in Mississippi; the year is 1962. Skeeter is home from college, wanting to be a writer but slowly realizing that no one will hire a woman for important writing jobs. Desperate, Skeeter takes a job writing a column on home cleaning tips for women, but she doesn’t know anything about the subject. She begins to consult Aibileen, a black maid in her friend’s house, about the column. Aibileen and another maid, Minny, slowly open Skeeter’s eyes to the plight of black maids who wait on white women, and take her writing career in an unexpected and dangerous direction.
The Help is simply an amazing book. The summary above cannot do this wonderful work of fiction justice; it’s so complicated, so nuanced, and so incredibly beautiful that it would take more than words to describe The Help.
The characters in this book are masterfully developed and are its core. Skeeter is so brave, yet so naive at the beginning of the novel. As it progresses, she begins to realize what is at stake and how much the maids are risking in order to be able to tell their stories. Though she is frightened of the consequences, she displays tremendous courage and strength of will.
Aibileen is a quiet, gentle soul who the reader imagines as ageless, yet incredibly beautiful. She has so much dignity and grace, it’s painful to read this novel at times because of what she is put through. The reader wants to reach into the pages of the book and stand as a barrier between Aibileen and anyone who might hurt her. At the same time, the reader wants to curl up and let Aibileen be a mother to them. She’s an amazingly detailed and beautifully written character that is really the heart of The Help.
The relationship between Minny and her employer, Celia, is a heartwarming one. In this book of sadness, it’s wonderful to see such a bright light. Celia is dependent on Minny; she needs her, just as much as Minny needs to be employed. But their relationship develops beyond one of employer and employee. They form a real connection that defies the norms of the time.
Though this book is a sad one that tackles some difficult subjects, it’s always full of hope. It’s not a book that weighs the reader down or is hard to read. It’s long, but the pages fly by as the reader gets more and more involved in the stories of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, three amazing women whose disparate voices come together to narrate this story. I wish I had more words to describe how astonishing, how uplifting, how incredibly touching this novel is, but they simply aren’t there. All I can say is that The Help does not disappoint and you should make it a point to read this wonderful novel as soon as possible.