Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett last night. I liked it very much. It is a story that takes place in Jackson,Mississippi around 1962-1963. Skeeter Phelan returned home after graduating from college in 1962, with no job and wanting to be a writer living in New York. Upon arriving home, she learned that her beloved Constantine was no longer working for her family. Constantine was the family's black maid who had raised Skeeter. Skeeter never had any doubt about how much Constantine loved her and Skeeter loved her just as much. When she came home and found that Constantine was no longer with the family, she asked her mother what had happened and her mother was very vague and would not tell her what had happened.
This was the beginning of a seed that grew and grew in Skeeter's mind. She started noticing how her friends and their families treated their female black help.
The book is narrated in chapters by the 3 main characters: Skeeter, Aibileen and Minnie. Aibileen and Minnie are black maids for friends of Skeeter's. As Skeeter begins paying attention to their lives, she begins to identify the injustice, inhumanity, unawareness, etc, that the black maids have put up with all of their lives. Skeeter has an idea: to write a book about the lives of 13 black maids. She approaches Aibileen first, hoping that she will help Skeeter both find and convince 12 other women to join Aibileen in providing their stories to Skeeter.
Of course, it is difficult to convince the women to spill all of the treatment and secrets, etc. of the families that they have worked for over the years. Skeeter promises absolute anonymity and that the name of the town would be changed.
Skeeter's book happens and, of course, all hell breaks loose in the town as some of the white women began to think that they recognize the stories.
I really liked reading this book. Hearing the narration from the 3 different women added a lot of substance and variety to the book. I wished that there was actually more about the actual stories that were put into Skeeter's book, as The Help primarily was focused on Aibileen and Minnie's lives.
As I have noted before, I feel that one of the things that defines a book as "good" is if the book leaves you wanting to know more about the subject...this book did that for me. In the Acknowledgements, the author refers to a book called Telling Memories Among Southern Women by Susan Tucker...I need to find and read it! Fascinating, hard-to-believe lives. I am almost always drawn to books about the South.
Anyway, good, easy reading book that I recommend!