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The Help

A book by Kathryn Stockett.

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An amazingly satisfying first novel--except for the very end.

  • Apr 9, 2009
Rating:
+4
From page one until almost the last, this story impressed me on many levels--

As a writer, I was impressed and envious that a first novel could be SO good.

As a reader, I fell in love with the voices of the book's 3 main characters--Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny--and never wanted their story to end.

As a human being, the stories of black servants and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi alternately wrenched my heart and created a bitter knot in my stomach. As a white person, the attitudes of (most of) the white characters in this story are an embarassment to me. I know it's just a novel--but I also know (even with not having lived any further south than Virginia--that these attitudes are not fiction.

The bond between Aibileen and Mae Mobley, one of the two white children she cared for, was beautifully drawn, as was Aibileen's hope for MaeMo to grow up a different kind of white woman than her mother and most other white women who inhabit the story.

The balance these characters had to dance between wanting to do something that felt RIGHT--something that mattered and might help the next generation have a better life--and the fear of doing so in that racially explosive time and place was palpable throughout much of the story.

In the last half of the book, I was reading while watching TV--something I don't think I've EVER done before--reading during commercials, reading in bed, reading on the porch...I felt that I HAD to keep reading. Until the last chapter or two, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to give this book a 5-star review. I was telling everyone I knew about it and recommending it heartily.

But then came the ending, and I found it SO unsatisfying...especially compared to how incredibly satisfying I found the rest of the book. I may be wrong, but it screamed one of two things to me--sequel or tight deadline; i.e., either things were left unfinished because there's going to be another book or she ran out of time to bring it to the complete, fulfilling and heart-gladdening ending that this amazing story deserved.

I still very much recommend the book; just perhaps not as enthusiastically as I would have 50, 100 or 400 pages ago.

Edited in March 2010 to add that I listened to the book on audio CD a few months ago and it is, without doubt, the best audiobook I have ever heard.  There are 4 different women doing the narration and wow, does it bring the story to life.  I highly recommend it!

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November 29, 2010
I just started reading this book for my monthly book club! Now I'm dying to get to the ending to see what you're talking about. Thanks for the review!
 
November 29, 2010
I gave the book 4 stars on Amazon ONLY because I was so disappointed with the ending. I guess when my reviews got imported here en masse, I screwed up the rating conversion. :(
 
March 06, 2010
I enjoyed the book but it felt strained in a few parts, trying to link the characters to historical events. Still, it's a page-turner for sure. You care about the characters. I totally agree about the ending, I had the same response. Everything tied up much too neatly, especially considering the facts we all know about the place and time.
 
May 06, 2009
Just completed The Help by Kathryn Strockett myself, and I go with the full five-stars. I thought the writer did an incredible job of creating the characters' voices without making them sound cartoon-like, which is a common problem when writing in vernacular. I could hear those women (and their dignity and strength and weaknesses) so strongly that their voices carried into my real life, me, a Midwesterner, suddenly all Southern-like while offering a second helping.

All of which then went deliciously, frighteningly far towards getting their stories told -- an important story with real context for real people. Just fabulous. From beginning to end, is my opinion. Can't recommend it enough.

I read The Help on a Kindle. This is one of those (rare) cases when I will also get the hardcopy for the shelf.
 
1
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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Wiki

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
First to Review
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