Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Help

Title:  The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Ideal Age Range:  Young Adult and Up
Mass Market Paperback: 444 Pages
Copyright Date: 2009
Blurb:  "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 insider her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way.  She is devoed to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. 
Minny, Aibeleen'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.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends-view one another.  A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
My Rating:  (★★★ 1/2)

I got a lot less sleep this past week because of a book.  Not because of my kid, or the cats, or the weather, but because of a book.  I finished Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help just this morning.  After spending the last few nights staying up way past my bedtime to get in some reading time sans baby.  Not that I can't really read while the baby is awake, but it is much easier when he is safely tucked in bed.
I have to start off with something- this is not my normal fare of book.  It doesn't have within it's pages a hint of the paranormal, there are no werewolves hiding in the cotton fields of Jackson, or vampires in the humid League's hall.  It's contemporary fiction, perhaps set a few decades ago but the problems that are outlined in The Help still exist today, there is still racism, there is still sexism, and don't get me started about the discrimination of people of different sexual orientation than heterosexual.
Kathryn Stockett writes in each woman's voice, chapter by chapter the narration switches from Aibeleen, Minny and Skeeter.  And the differences of inflection and emotions are amazing.  This book is definitely character driven and there is a strength to each woman that makes you keep turning the pages to see what they can accomplish and how they change as people.
There is a depth to even sub-characters.  I felt intense dislike for Miss Hilly.  Pity and sympathy for Miss Celia.  I liked Skeeter's independence, and Minny's Sass (with a capital S).  Aibeleen's love for the white children she took care of hit me pretty hard.  Hardest thing to read was the last two pages, in my opinion, I won't say anything more, but if you haven't read The Help, you might want to pick it up, even if you are like me, not normally into books without vampires or werewolves, I'm sure you will like it.  You won't be able to help yourself.  ;)

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