The Help and a Lesson in Fighting for What's Right
"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."
After putting off Kathryn Stockett's The Help for months, I was finally forced to read it for one of my many (and ever-growing) book clubs. Thank you Misty (and whoever from the group suggested it be our next book)! I think I put off reading it for so long because of how much it's been touted since it's publication. There has been so much hype and so many people saying how fantastic it is that I was terrified it wouldn't live up to it. That it would fail at impressing me and leave me even more jaded with public opinion (cue Justin Bieber). However, now that I've read it, I can honestly say that this novel DOES live up to everything that's been said about it. It's absolutely wonderful! It is sharp. It is witty. It is sad. It is infuriating. It is so much.
The novel takes place in the early 1960s and centers around three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Two of these characters, Aibileen and Minny, are black maids in the homes of two Jackson, Mississippi families, while Skeeter is a young, privileged, white woman, also in Jackson, who happens to be "friends" with the families Aibileen and Minny work for. Skeeter's goal in life is to become a writer and move to New York; essentially to get out of Mississippi and the pressure she feels from her family and the entire community. She ends up applying for a job at a magazine that she is clearly not qualified for and striking up a "relationship" with the editor of the magazine. This is where the adventure for these three characters begins.
Skeeter knows that, in order to achiever her goals, she must write something that is unprecedented. Something that stirs controversy. Something that forces her to probe social issues. She comes across the notion of writing a book from the perspective of the help through Aibileen. And everything stems from there.
I don't want to give anything away. Most people know the premise of this book due to the trailers of the Hollywood version that was constantly promoted leading up to the film's release, so the above is nothing new. What I will not give away are the intricacies of the relationships that Stockett does a brilliant job of developing. Her characters are deep, thoughtful, complex, and varied. This lends such a richness to the text that it causes the reader to feel like they "know" these people. We identify with them. We feel for them. We want to fight for them. We also cheer for them. I think that's what Stockett wanted. She wants the reader to do all of these things. She wants us to hate Hilly...and boy do we!
“Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought.”