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The Help

A book by Kathryn Stockett.

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Extraordinary Book About Extraordinary Times

  • Apr 19, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+5
Sneaky Kathryn Stockett: You made the chapters and the segments within the chapters just short enough that I'd read one and think, "Well, just one more won't hurt," and before I knew it, I was up an hour past my bedtime just so I could read "one more..." But seriously, I'm not complaining; when a book is this good, you are so wrapped up in the story that putting it down is a chore no matter what the time of day.

The Help is the story of the "colored" domestic help many southerners employed throughout the first 60+ years of the twentieth century, when everyone knew his or her place in the world, and made sure that everyone else remembered their own places as well. As Ms. Stockett points out, much of the help was indeed thought of as extended family, often raising the white children of the home and staying with one family for most of a lifetime. Still, even though the maids were an intricate, intimate part of a household, they knew where the invisible lines were drawn and they knew their very lives sometimes depended upon the whims of the people for whom they worked. Civil rights was only a glimmer of a thought in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, and Ms. Stockett captures the hope of the black people wanting to change their circumstances and the hysteria of the white people wanting things to continue in their segregated way forever. Out of this tug of war comes the idea for Skeeter Phelan, the main white character in the book: She will interview many of the black maids she knows and will write a book of their experiences, bringing to light the struggles the women face and the inequities of their situations.

The Help is told from three very distinct points of view. First there is Aibileen, a maid to one of the leading young socialites of Jackson. Aibileen has raised seventeen white children in her years as a maid, and she has seen enough heartache and discrimination that she agrees, at first unwillingly, to help Skeeter secretly with the book. Then there is Skeeter herself: fresh out of college but unsure what to do with her life, eager to write but afraid of failing her mother, hoping for love but uneasy with what's going on around her. Finally there is the invincible Minny, a maid who simply cannot keep her mouth shut and who finds herself tending to a social outcast while fending off her own demons at home. Once these three women unite, The Help becomes not just about oppression in the south, but also about tentative friendship and what you are willing to stand up for.

Ms. Stockett's got a gift for a turn of phrase, and The Help is delightfully filled with passages that I found myself reading and rereading for the sheer joy of seeing those words again on the pages. Complex and compelling, I found myself cheering these women on yet knowing they were all going to lose something for their courage in sharing their stories, even if they attempt to do so anonymously. Ms. Stockett writes each character distinctly and strongly, and she made me understand that when you peel back the layers, the complications are deeper and more likely to leave permanent scars. The voices of these characters are going to speak to me for a very long time to come; I can't recommend this one highly enough.

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More The Help reviews
review by . July 15, 2012
I am a white man who has never lived in Mississippi and would have been the age of little Mae Mobley at the time period covered in the book. But to dismiss this as a "woman's book" or in any other way attempt to excuse myself from reading would have been unacceptable.      By now everyone who wants has read the book or seen the excellent movie version of it, which was nominated for several Academy Awards, winning Octavia Spencer the award for Actress in a Supporting …
review by . July 12, 2010
My book group chose to read Kathryn Stockett's "The Help," and I was a little apprehensive when I started reading. The author is a white and writes in the voices of two black women, which made me uncomfortable. (How am I to know if the characters are authentic? The author has never been in those characters' shoes.) Plus, I thought the subject had been done before.      But apprehensions aside, I was blown away by the story. It is engaging and thought-provoking. …
review by . May 16, 2010
The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early sixties, and narrated by three women: Aibileen is an older housemaid who has raised seventeen white children, Minny is a younger domestic with a hot temper, and Skeeter is a wealthy, white, college graduate who has just returned home to her critical mother.       The story starts off as a look at bored, rich women with nothing better to do than gossip about each other while being insensitive if not downright cruel to "the …
review by . July 09, 2010
On recommendation by the book club to which I belong, I opened the cover of The Help, Kathryn Stockett's debut novel and one which has garnered a great deal of attention--including well over 2,000 reviews on Amazon and counting fast. Indeed, a second review appears on The Smoking Poet, a literary ezine I manage, written by Jeanette Lee, which pretty much sums up all that, to my mind, needs be said.     I add, then, my personal opinion. First impression: yikes. I read a few sentences …
review by . July 04, 2010
The Help by Kathryn Stockett is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The book is set in the Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s. The book follows the stories of several African American maids working in the homes of wealthy white women. It is written in multi-perspective narrative form. I picked up this book because it was recommended to me by a friend and was not disappointed by the recommendation. From the first page, I was hooked to the unique style of writing. Kathryn Stockett's …
Quick Tip by . January 27, 2011
Intriguing and addictive read about African American maids in the south in the 1960's. The change in perspectives gave this novel great suspense.  My only complaint is that I would have liked a chapter in the voice of Hilly or Celia - the most intriguing characters IMO.
review by . July 06, 2010
I loved this book- the story and the characters and the writing- and here's why: The main story here- of the women who nanny and clean the house, their backgrounds and how they relate to one another- is a solid one and written well enough to be its own book.  But the secondary story is even better.  It's a story of what happens when people cross party lines and create something unique together.  I was reading the book and feeling very involved when, wham!, this second story …
review by . June 20, 2010
The Help is a page-turning story that takes place in Jacksonville, Miss in the pre-civil rights 1960's about the segregated relationships between the wealthy white land-owners and their hired black help. Narrated by one wealthy white woman, Skeeter and two maids; hot headed-genius in the kitchen, Minny, and aging benevolent, Abilene.      Skeeter returns from graduating college back home to Jacksonville where she will see through the inequities between employers and the help …
review by . February 06, 2010
Wow. I've been trying to find the words to review this one since I finished reading it, but I'm not coming up with the right thing here. This book is, simply, amazing. I was shocked to learn this was the first book by this author. The writing is beautiful, eloquent... just... good.    The setting is post segregation, not long after MLK is shot in Jackson, Mississippi. Someone decides to write a book about being a black maid to a white family. It's poignant, it makes you think, …
review by . January 28, 2010
What more is there to say that 1,500 other reviewers haven't already said. I just wanted to add my two cents.    I loved this book. It was so well written and poignant that once I started it was hard to put down.    I LOVED the women in Stockett's story, even the nasty ones. They were all very real and many of them were people I would have loved to sit down and have a glass of iced tea with on a hot southern day.    Although Stockett makes …
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Tammy Koudelka McCann ()
Ranked #406
I'm a tall person trapped in a short person's body.
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Starred Review. What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) 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. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.(Feb.)
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ISBN-10: 0399155341
ISBN-13: 978-0399155345
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
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