Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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 ‘til 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.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book that touched me the way The Help did. I flew through his book, and finished it within two days if I remember right. Kathryn Stockett paints a vivid picture of life in deep Mississippi 1962, and it’s not exactly pretty. The lines of racial segregation are still in place and the African Americans are treated like second-class citizens…if that. Being that I’m only in my 20’s, the idea of racism to this extreme is just heartbreaking and at often times throughout the book, hard to grasp. Obviously I learned about it history class over the years, but our world is just so different now. I just can’t understand why anyone would degrade someone or treat them like a lower-class citizen based on their skin color.

My heart ached for these characters; I found my stomach in knots a few times simply because I was so worried about what could happen to these characters. I so much admired Skeeter’s courage, and I can’t imagine that feeling of knowing that your views on equality are so completely different from your family, and even your friends; knowing that you can’t tell anyone close to you about this book for fear of being ridiculed and looked down upon. It just made my heart happy seeing how much Aibileen and Minny came to adore Skeeter, and vice versa. They were willing to tell their stories, all the while knowing the consequences if anyone found out they were congregating with a white girl.

Overall, it was a beautifully written book that will stay with you. It’s an example of how change starts with just one person; one person willing to overlook the racial lines, one person willing to sacrifice their friends to stand up for what they believe in, one person that refuses to believe there  should be a barrier between races. I just absolutely loved this book, and would highly recommend it.  

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