Every once in a while, I pick up a book that I can’t put down. A couple of people I met this summer raved about Kathryn Stockett’s historical fiction, The Help so I decided to see what the fuss was about.
The Help invites the reader into the deep South, Jackson, Mississippi during the 60’s — a time when black maids worked in the homes of white socialites with the civil rights movement brewing.
Stockett tells the story through the first-person view of three characters, Aibileen, a black maid raising her seventeenth white child, her outspoken friend Minny and white socialite Miss Skeeter, who lives at home and would rather land a job as a journalist instead of a husband.
“Together, these seemingly different women join to work on a project that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town — to write, in secret, a tell-all book about what it’s really like to work as a black maid in the white homes of the South.”
I loved how Stockett wove the narrative through the perspective of each character. Each has their own demons to face and social norms to succumb to. The antagonist, Mrs. Hilly, is painted in such a way that will leave you gritting our teeth, ashamed of this dark time in our nation’s history and cheering on the trio of character’s who, in their own way, bring light to racial tension.
Sometimes I feel silly when using similes in my writing, like I’m back in third grade. But Stockett uses them with ease, adding depth to her description and imagery.
Stockett herself grew up with a black maid, Demetrie.
“I’m pretty sure I can say that no one in my family ever asked Demetrie what it felt like to be black in Mississippi working for our white family,” Stockett said. “It never occurred to us to ask. It was everyday life. It wasn’t something people felt compelled to examine. I have wished, for many years, that I’d been old enough and thoughtful enough to ask Demetrie that question. She died when I was sixteen. I’ve spent years imagining what her answer would be. And that is why I wrote this book.”
You won’t be disappointed with The Help, and you still have time to read it before the motion picture is released in August.
“I can’t believe Aibileen wants to tell Miss Skeeter the truth. Truth. It feels cold, like water washing over my sticky-hot body. Cooling a heat that’s been burning me up all my life. Truth, I say inside my head again, just for that feeling.” -Minnie
“A minute after dark, I’m setting at my kitchen table, twirling my pencil. My white-library copy a Huckleberry Finn’s in front a me, but I can’t read it. I got a bad taste in my mouth, bitter, like coffee grounds in the last sip.” -Aibileen
“There is undisguised hate for white women, there is inexplicable love. Faye Belle, palsied and gray-skinned, cannot remember her own age. Her stories unfold like soft linen.” -Skeeter