The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
It’s kind of pointless to talk about how much I loved The Help because everyone else in the world already has. But goodness, I loved it. The thing is, I love the characters. All three protagonists remind me of myself or who I want to be in some way. Skeeter, awkward and lacking confidence, has a terrible relationship with her mother and was brutally rejected by her best friend. Minny is sarcastic and honest, which causes white women to hate her. How many girls have never given me a second chance after one smart-mouthed comment? And Aibileen, the model of the Christian women I want to be, who sees everything that is wrong with the world and it just breaks her heart, but she doesn’t know what to do to fix it. Everything about these women and their unlikely friendship tugged on my heartstrings and knocked on my funny bone. How I wish I was brave enough and clever enough to bring about change like these three did.
Kathryn Stockett mentioned in her miniature memoir about her own maid at the end of the book that she didn’t know if she was crossing some kind of line by writing from a black woman’s point of view the way she did. In the same way I wonder if this is the sort of book that black civil rights activists roll their eyes at while we white women feel like we suddenly understand them better. I don’t really know, but I DO know that it has helped me to better understand the universal truth, that a person is a person regardless of what they look like. You never know what’s going on beneath their carefully sculpted facade, and we need to treat everyone with love all the time, even when it isn’t easy or natural. And maybe that has less to do with civil rights than it does with just living life, but I still think I have become a better person because of The Help.