Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
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.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Well before I got one third of the way through this book, I knew that it would get a rating of 5 from me, unless of course the second half of the book just went horribly wrong. Somehow I just didn't see that happening.
I was skeptical that a white author would truly be able to write in the voice of a black woman in 1960s Mississippi, but write she did and not just one woman but two. Aibileen and Minny are distinctly different women, both funny, smart, sad and ultimately brave. Skeeter was just also a joy to get to know. She's a modern woman torn between expectations and hoping for change until the opportunity presents itself. She teams up with the Aibileen and Minny to work on a project that is dangerous for the three of them. Segregation is still rampant and Mississippi is fighting the inevitable changes.
Race relations takes center stage in the novel. Ms. Stockett did an excellent job of treating the subject with careful respect by combining fact with fiction, pointing out injustices and the irony of it all without condemning either race. Really well done. My only disappointment - the Terrible Awful just wasn't enough of a price for Hilly to pay, evil woman. I shudder to think that people like her existed and likely still do.
Read this book...You will love it.
Final Take: 5/5
Friday, June 19, 2009