Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Well, I just finished The Help, and I can't get it out of my mind. Reading this book was a very cinematic experience for me. I could easily picture the movie that the book will one day surely become. Narrated by several characters, each wholly developed and totally believable, the story just sings with verisimilitude. It is 1962, and Skeeter Phelan has graduated from college and come home to Jackson, Mississippi, to figure out the rest of her life. She doesn't have much in common with her two best friends, Hilly and Elizabeth, anymore. Both are married mothers immersed in Junior League and household management, the latter of which requires the ubiquitous "help" of that era. The housekeepers are African American maids who are simply doing the best they can, struggling to earn a living so they can make a better life for their children. These women endure plenty, from the minor (being banned from their employers' toilets) to the major (living in a world of hate crimes). Skeeter, a budding writer, is compelled to tell the maids' stories in a book, a potentially dangerous act in that era. What she learns from the help, which includes the nurturing Aibileen and the sharp-tongued Minny, is both baffling and beautiful and ends up considerably blurring color lines. The Help resurrects the South of the early 60s in all its ugliness and beauty. Stockett's words leave indelible images in the mind which had this reader thanking history, yet again, for the Civil Rights Movement.