Review: The Help

The Help bookcover
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Release Date: February 10th 2009
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads description: 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.

Set in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, Aibileen works for a well-to-do Leefolt family with status but not wealth, basically raising their child, Mae Mobley. She cooks, she cleans, she hears most of the town’s gossip and scandal through her employer, Elizabeth’s bridge club. Elizabeth is best friend to Hilly, president of the Junior League. She also hears and witnesses Hilly’s racism, in the form of an initiative for families to install a separate bathroom outside the house for “the help.”

Aibileen’s friend Minny is a sassy maid with troubles keeping her opinions to herself and a knack for finding herself in trouble. She finds herself out of work and unable to find a job because of Hilly’s lies. The helpless and clueless Celia Foote is uninformed and hires Minny, luckily for both.

Skeeter has dreams of writing and Hilly’s racist agenda doesn’t sit right with her. She takes a stand and decides to stop being a follower. At risk to herself and the maids involved, she writes a book describing the real lives of black maids and the families they work for, filled with juicy and true details. Aibileen and Minny, along with the other maids Skeeter interviews, risk so much to tell their story. They take a stand and do something that’s difficult and potentially dangerous just to show the world how “the help” is treated.

I love that Skeeter turns against everything she knows and really stands up for what she believes in. It would be easy for her to conform and just get married and have a maid raise kids for her, to do what her mom and society expects of her. However, she’s strong and sticks to her convictions, even when her closest friendships and her reputation is on the line. Writing the book was tense for everyone involved, and I loved that she bonded with Aibileen and some of the other maids.

I love that the book gives you a look into each lady’s life, I really enjoyed all three narrators. I loved reading about Aibileen and Mae Mobley, their bond broke my heart. And seeing into Minny’s home life along with all she dealt with at work is incredible. I loved seeing Skeeter take steps away from her friends and learn more about the world outside of Jackson. I love that Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter were strong women who didn’t give up and didn’t take the easy way out. I love the worry and excitement they all felt while writing and waiting for news about the book, and I felt it with them.

The story was touching, but it read a little slow for me. I know some people have had issues with the voice of the maids since the author is white, but she talks about that in the book’s afterword and she obviously cares a lot about the subject if she took the time to write it. I really liked the story, but I still felt some sort of disconnect with it. I did enjoy it and would recommend it, but I didn’t love it.


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