Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Number 28: The Help
I finished this book last night and now I know why everyone is talking about it. I absolutely loved it. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. It was an incredible read, a telling and touching story, and so well written. For her first novel, Kathryn Stockett has a huge hit on her hands, and it's no wonder why!
I started this a few days ago, and got sucked in immediately as the story opened up with the character of Aibileen. A black maid to a white family, Aibileen shares with us her immediate love for Mae Mobley, the baby girl she takes care of, along with the story of her life before this family. The loss of her son, the families she's worked for before this one, and the babies she's loved as if they were her own.
Aibileen's friend Minny is her complete opposite. Loud and boisterous. Strong and fearless. And yet we learn her true fears, her true battles, and her day to day as her story unravels. Minny is a trooper. Minny is powerful, and yet has no power at all.
And lastly, there's Miss Skeeter. Miss Skeeter is the one white woman who makes all the difference. She connects with Aibileen, and ultimately determines that there is much more she wants to do. To empower herself, to grow, and to strengthen the lives of these women, in memory of the black woman who raised her, Constantine, who disappeared without saying goodbye some time ago.
Their story unravels in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s. Miss Skeeter has just returned home from college, men are paid way more than women, and blacks are employed by whites, and yet not allowed to use the same bathrooms, libraries or schools.
From the language used throughout:
Every time Aibileen said "Law" I just had to chuckle. Wonder why? She meant "Lord!" See - such an amazing feel just from the language alone!
... to the simple references of the time:
Skeeter's family got their very first air conditioner during this story!
... to the cultural divide:
Aibileen's son's friend was beaten to blindness for accidentally using a white bathroom!
Miss Hilly was a white woman on a mission, to make blacks so separated and segregated that she fabricated all kinds of information just to ensure that they had their own BATHROOMS!
This story is one like no other I have read before.
I loved it so much I ordered a copy to send to my mother-in-law for a belated Mother's Day gift before I even finished it. I highly recommend it, and recommend you buy an extra copy to lend out, or a few copies to give your reading friends as gifts. I'm already trying to figure out who else might love it as much as I did.
Go get yourself a copy. And sit down for the long haul.