The Help [Book Review]

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 0399155341
Pages: 451
Year: 2009
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books (Putnam)
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Rating: 4/5

Let’s face it, I’m the last person on Earth to read The Help. My friend, Erin, brought over her copy in December and I had every intention of reading it then, but is somehow languished on the stairs (that’s where my library/borrowed books go) until April. But at least I finally got here (and can return the book to its rightful owner).

The Help is the story of a young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi. Skeeter, the young white woman is an aspiring writer. She chooses to document the lives of the black maids hired to clean the white houses and raise the white babies in Jackson. Through the voices of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, and against the backdrop of the accelerating civil rights movement, the story of these maids and their relationships with their employers is told.

The Help is one of those rare books that is both a bestseller and widely respected in literary circles. So I had incredible expectations going into this read. And it turned out to be a very good book, but perhaps my expectations prevented me from achieving the level of adoration as everyone else. Or perhaps it was because I read most of it while I was under the weather. Either way, I liked it, but maybe a little less than everyone else.

I enjoyed reading The Help. The writing is good and the story is interesting. Stockett does a wonderful job capturing the voice of each narrator – Skeeter’s restlessness, Aibileen’s sadness, Minny’s tenacity – and capturing what their lives are like.

I always think of this era as history because it occurred before I existed (and I must be the center of my universe), but it always amazes me that this is what life was Southern life was like in the 60s. I think growing up in the North allowed me to distance myself from it. Now that I live in Florida, I see remnants of that period, the most blatant of which was the balcony seating I stumbled upon at the old Sarasota courthouse (and I’ve heard our own courthouse only removed the second drinking fountain within the past 10 years). I think novels that illustrate this history for those of us who never experienced it are commendable and necessary.

If you are somehow even more behind the times than I am (no offense), you should read this book and see what everyone meant.

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound; Powell’s; The Book Depository