- women who like a little depth to their chick-lit
- people interesting in racial inequality in 1960s Mississippi
Kathryn Stockett‘s debut novel called The Help is a rapid and easy read. I spend a great deal of time delving in thick literature because it’s what I love, but surely one enjoys a break for a soft and girly read every now and then.
The Help is about the lives of black maids in the 1960s Deep South. Stockett reveals the tension of love and hatred that the maids feel towards the families they work for. Skeeter is a young white woman who grew up on a cotton plantation. After university gradation she returns to Jackson Mississippi, but has a hard time meeting traditional expectations for women of the time. She has a secret dream to be a writer or a journalist in the editing business. Although she seems to have no real drive for her dream, she applies for random jobs in large cities. It’s a feeble attempt at escape.
A few events occur that highlight the huge injustices in her town between the “help” and the women they work for. In fact, Skeeter’s own mother fired the family maid out of sheer racism. Skeeter feels convicted to act and enlists the help of two maids, Aibileen and Minny, to write a book from the point of view of the domestic help. Both Minny and Aibileen have spent their entire adult life being maids for white families of Jackson Mississippi.
With great difficulty, and with the help of Aibileen and Minny, Skeeter is able to gather narratives and stories of the lives of The Help. They publish it anonymously to protect the women from losing their jobs or reputations among the white families in Jackson. The book is popular, and creates a stir in Jackson and all over the country. The voice of the maids is heard.
I enjoyed this book. I felt like the plot was thoughtful. I was emotionally involved in the lives of the maids and their sufferings through the injustices. What a hard existence.
However, I didn’t LOVE this book. The characters were slightly flat. Skeeter, in particular, was not believable. I didn’t feel like she was compassionate towards the maids. It was more of a decision of the mind, rather than the heart.
There was also something a touch “draggy” about it. I finished it, but the last 2/3rds felt forced.
The Help was published in 2009, and they have already made it into a movie. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard it’s good. Check out the trailer. It made me tear up a bit, because I’m a bit of a sap.