Monday, 26 April 2010

The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett
Pages: 444
Genre: Historical Fiction
One Word Review: Incredible!
First Line: "Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August 1960."

Synopsis: Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 "The Help" tells the stories of three Southern women and how they deal with the racism and segregation that plagues their town. Aibileen is a black maid who has raised 17 white children and who recently buried her only son. Although she is treated poorly by her employer, Aibileen is devoted to the little girl she is raising and hopes to be able to teach the young girl that colour doesn't matter.

Minny is an outspoken black maid who has lost more jobs than she cares to count due to her quick and sassy mouth. She finally finds a job with a couple who is new to town and Minny hopes that her new employers won't find out about her troubled past. Little does she know the secret that her new boss is keeping.

Skeeter is a twenty-two year old white woman who has recently graduated from university. This isn't seen as much of an accomplishment in the eyes of Skeeter's mother since Skeeter has come home without any prospects of a future husband. Upon arriving home Skeeter is shocked to learn that her beloved maid Constantine has suddenly disappeared and no one will tell her why.

These three women are very different from each other but when a clandestine project comes along that allows them to work together they dive into it with gusto. The project could put their lives in danger if anyone found out. If they forget about this new project will their lives continue on the way they were with each of these women suffocating under the roles that they and others put them in?

My Thoughts: I ... LOVED ... THIS ... BOOK! Wow! I dare you to read it and not have trouble tearing yourselves away to do silly things like ... eating, sleeping etc. I was up until 3am on Saturday night reading this book! There is never a dull moment in this book. The author keeps you riveted to the story the entire way through with amazingly detailed characters who you learn to love ... and hate.

This is a story about breaking through boundaries that others put upon us ... and that we put on ourselves. It's about learning about oneself, how to define yourself and not cave to the pressure to be someone you're not. It's about learning that the facade that people show others isn't necessarily who they are inside. You think you know someone ... until they let you inside and show you the real person behind all the smoke and mirrors that they put out.

This book allowed me to get a better understanding of the issue of segregation. I, of course, knew something about the segregation of the races in the southern US but this book allowed me to see how it personally effected those involved. How a young black man was beaten to death because he accidentally used the wrong bathroom. How the culture of segregation would slowly turn the beliefs of innocent colour-blind children into the ignorant beliefs of their parents. How people of different races could be arrested for just talking to each other in private.
Key people in the Civil Rights movement (Rosa Parks, the shooting death of Medger Evers ...) are mentioned in the book as well as the assassination of President Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech ( it gives me chills every time I hear it) as well as his march in Washington, DC.

It's filled with a wonderful sense of humour from the main characters. The characters are so well written that it's easy to picture them in your head. I can totally envision Skeeter's mother berating her for wearing inappropriate clothing to go out to dinner or Minny mouthing off to her new employer for being ignorant about the rules of segregation.

I'm amazed that a mere decade before I was born that segregation was still so prevalent in the southern States. It seems like that kind of behaviour is from so long ago ... when sadly, it's from the not so distant past.
I highly recommend this book. It will shock you, it will make you laugh, cry and everything in between. Not many books have been able to make me squeeze out a tear or get choked up ... this one did.

My Rating: 5/5


Janssen said...

So glad you loved this post! I kept thinking "I cannot BELIEVE this was the world my parents were children in." It just seems a whole world away.

Laurie said...

I agree, Janssen. Seems like it should have been from an era a long time ago.
I loved that the author kept enough suspense in her storyline that it kept me wanting to find out what will happen to these characters. The characters seemed really real too. A well written book that was hard to put down.

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