Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I'd been wanting to read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett for a while.  I was fortunate to have a co-worker loan me a copy and that gave me a good excuse to jump right on it!  I wasn't disappointed.  I was hooked from the beginning.

Abilene is the narrator of the first chapter and she sets the tone with absolute love for the child she is raising and frustration -maybe even disgust- for the little girl's mother.  Abilene is a black woman, a maid, living in Jackson Mississippi in the 1960's.  The Civil Rights movement is just beginning to take form but in Jackson people are stubborn and don't want change, let along integration.

Another narrator is Minny, a mother of four.  She is a maid with a fast tongue who gets herself in trouble with the ladies she works for.  When she gets a job working for the odd Celia Foote, she is secure in her paycheck but terrified that what she did to a former employer's daughter will come back to haunt her. 

The third narrator is Miss Skeeter, a white woman.  She was raised by a black maid and was extremely close to her.  When Miss Skeeter returns from college to find that Constantine has moved away without a goodbye, she starts to think of the stories of these women, who wait on her and her friends.  She is motivated to write their stories.  It's a risk for her and for the women who share their lives with her.

I was born in the 1970's, raised in California, and I'm white.  I can not relate in the slightest to what it must have felt like to be told to use a separate bathroom because of skin color.  Despite not living any part of this story, I was still moved by the book.  I was struck by the fear.  The women who told their stories to Miss Skeeter were terrified of getting caught.  They were afraid for themselves, and their families.  It was shocking and horrible.

The book is wonderful.  It opened my eyes.  I highly recommend it.

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