Monday, March 22, 2010

Julie's Review: The Help

Summary: 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.

Review: The Help will go in my "Why didn't I read this sooner?" category. I've never read anything like this book and I don't think I probably ever will again. The novel is unique, inspiring, and heart-wrenching. This is definitely a book I will be picking up again at some point in the future. It will also be mandatory reading for my daughter when she's grown.

The story is told from 3 different points of view: Miss Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. Each of these characters have their own rich voices, that makes the story come alive. I can't say that I had a favorite character out of the 3 of them, they were all so different, individual and distinct. Each has had different experiences but those different experiences bring them together in ways that no one in the mid 1960's in Jackson, Mississippi could fathom.

There are some humorous points in the book along with the poignant. There are some fantastic secondary characters in the book. My favorite was Miss Celia. I could so picture her in my head and often felt sorry for her. Of course there's the character that you just can't stand and can't wait until she gets her just desserts and The Help definitely has one of these.

Ultimately these women are brave. Each of them risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones to create change. Race relations is the forefront of this book but in the end it's about women. Our relationships and how we are all similar even if we don't realize it.

I don't often read the afterword by authors but I found Ms. Stockett's to be extremely raw and moving. It brought a whole new element of realism to the book for me.

So, run don't walk to your favorite bookstore and buy this book. I don't think you'll regret it.

Final Take: 5/5

Related Links: Lisa's Review


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