The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (February 10, 2009)
Hardcover, 451 pages
Source: Audiobook from the Library
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.
I have heard wonderful reviews about The Help for so long, and have wanted the opportunity to read it. In the library last week, I took the opportunity to snatch up an audio version and listened to the voices of Minny, Aibileen and Skeeter in any available moment.
I finished The Help three days ago, and I have been feeling a sense of loss and mourning ever since: I did not want the book to end. I felt such a strong connection to the characters and the book spoke to me in a way that was so much different than any other book that I have ever read. The Help was a book that moved me to think about the world that I live in and how very different it is than the world that existed just 50 years ago. The story was powerful and thought-provoking, entertaining and enlightening.
I am inspired by Skeeter who risked lifelong friendships, love, the relationship with her mother, and even her life to tell the stories that she felt needed to be told. She was first motivated to impress Elaine Stein, a powerful book editor in New York, but Skeeter's research and storytelling became her only focus in life. The bravery that ran deep in every character was so moving. I don't feel like I have had any personal experience in my life that can match the courage that these women showed, when faced with such astonishing risks.
Rarely do I find myself telling every person that I know about a book, but I have wanted to share my feelings and my love for The Help with everyone. I cannot recommend this book enough - for the history, the story, the strong women, and the overwhelming desire to rise above and be more than the prejudice and hate that ran so deep in Jackson, Mississippi.
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