By Kathryn Stockett
Published: Amy Einhorn Books; 2009
Synopsis: Set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams.
My Take: I was given this book for Christmas by mom and was thrilled! I had seen it on a ton of blogs and almost everyone had loved it. It was set in the South and dealt with female relationships so I was pretty sure I would like it too. Yet, it just sat on my shelf. I think because I knew so many people had read and liked it, it didn't have the discovery of the unknown out there on it. Then my worlds collided this past month: my mom was coming up over Memorial Day weekend and said she'd like to borrow it, so I figured I'd better read it first and my book club (of which I rarely go) picked it as their book club pick and I thought, perfect now I will be given a time line so, here we go.
'The Help' was a wonderful debut novel. There was a large cast of characters within this book and they are all fully developed. I whizzed through this large book in record time because the story drew me in. Some stories I've read lately have failed to have a real plot that turned on anything and it doesn't really lend towards a page turner, but not this one! Skeeter, a white woman who grew up on a cotton plantation who loved her black maid and comes home from college only to discover her momma got rid of her and is disgusted by some of the things her friends say and do to their maids is an aspiring writer. When she goes to apply for a job in New York they tell her to write something first. So she gets an idea to write about the maids she knows and the stories they have to tell about working for white women and their families. I wanted to know, would they be able to get enough maids to tell the story, would they get the story published in time, would they be found out if it was published, and what would happen to the maids if they were found out. It was a great page turner for me!
I also loved the stories of all of the different women and the friendships within the book. The black community was very tightly knit, having to band together due to their adversity. The white community seemed to be torn apart by one woman and her anger and hatred. It was an interesting juxtaposition. My favorite minor character in the book was probably Celia. She was considered white trash but I felt so bad for her throughout the whole book and I just wanted her to get it together! Overall though all the characters served a purpose and I found that they really added something to the story.
I do think this was a great book club pick as well because it's so multi faceted and talks about something in history that really did occur. I find that those usually work the best because you can do one of those 'what would you have done' discussions.
One question for everyone who has read this book though, what the heck does that cover have to do with anything? I mean, it's pretty and all but I never once read a reference to birds in the book!
(I received this book as a gift)