When a friend recomneded this book, I didn't think much about it. She said it was good, I figured I would get to it eventurally. Honestly, I had this misplaced idea that it was about India, from the cover art. I actually never read the jacket brief or asked her what it was about....
Then I read it.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is a novel about three women who speak out durring the turbulent 60's in Mississippi. Skeeter, a young white woman just home from college, suddenly discovers that like in Jacksonville is so much less than she wants. And with the disappearence of the woman who raised her, the black maid Constantine, Skeeter begins to comprehend the deadly spires her society is built upon. Aibileen, a stong black maid raising her seventeenth white child, works for Skeeter's friend-- raising a little girl that will likely never outgrow the system that produced her. Pulling in Minny, Aibileen's best friend and the most smart-mouthed maid in the West, Skeeter and Aibileen conspire to tell their stories to a world in desperate need of change.
I could not put this book down-- go read it and see what else gets done while you do. The civil rights issues where interesting, but I've heard about them before, studied them in depth. What really caught my attention were the people living it. The black maids treated like an inferior species, called dirty and dishonesty though they were the cleanest, hardest working, most admirable ladies I think I have ever read about. The Hitler-like Hilly terrified me as did the testement to a white woman's way of dealing with insult from a black servant. Skeeter, so out of place and "modern" in her ideals, became another of my literary heroes as I read. But it is Aibilean who I hope I can be more like. This strong, dedicated, wise, loving, faithful, and challanging woman inspires me.
The prose is beautiful, the 450 page book sliding along like a Southern dream. Stockett's voice is near pitch-perfect. She writes in the vernacular without using strange spellings or weird regional words. Each character has a disinct voice and a deep dream. With real motivations, far-from perfect lives, and a strange sympathy for those on the other side of societal lines, these ladies manage to change their world, one word at a time.
The Help, read it.