Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | December 8, 2009

book review – The Help

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The year was 1962. The location, Jackson, Mississippi. The deep South prior to desegregation was a place where most comfortable white households had a black woman doing all of the housework and taking care of the children. Where people had separate bathrooms in their homes (or garages) so that their spaces wouldn’t be “contaminated” by the germs their help carried. It was a time when white women only went to college in order to get a “Mrs.” This is the scene that Kathryn Stockett elegantly paints in her novel “The Help.”

The story is told from the voices of three very different women – Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen is the hired help to Miss Elizabeth Leefot. Aibileen herself has raised 17 white children and one of her own. Aibilene follows the unwritten rules that direct the help to keep their noses and their minds to themselves. Minny is also hired help, but she has a much bigger problem with keeping her mind to herself. She can cook “like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue” which has lost her many a job. Miss Skeeter is a young white woman who just graduated from college, moved back home and wants to be a journalist or writer.

Miss Skeeter comes from the world of white privilege. Her family owns a cotton farm and she was raised by a black nanny – Constantine. She considered Constantine her closest friend and confidante, wrote letters to her while away at college and returned home shocked to find that she had been fired. No one would talk to Skeeter about what happened to Constantine. Instead, she was simply expected to become part of wealthy white society – she is the editor of the Junior League’s newsletter, plays weekly bridge games with her closest friends from childhood, and plays tennis at the club. But it leaves her unfulfilled.

Skeeter gets a job writing the “Miss Myrna” column at the local paper. This is the housekeeping column where people write in their questions and she is supposed to answer them. She takes the job as an opportunity to get something on her resume, but being raised with help, she knows nothing about the subject. She approaches Aibileen, who works for her friend Elizabeth, to help her. In the process, she comes up with another story to write that goes against everything she was raised to think.

This book was beautiful. Kathryn Stockett captured each woman’s voice perfectly. You quickly come to understand these strong women and the challenges that each of them face. While it is a work of fiction, the civil rights movement is definitely a part of our history, but this is also a side that most people have not seen. I could not put this book down and would highly recommend it to anyone.

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