Review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Review of The Help by Kathryn StockettThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
Published by New York Times® Best Sellers Pages: 876
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town...

I think that I underpaid for The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Yes, that’s right underpaid. You see, I purchased The Help by Kathryn Stockett at a publisher warehouse sale for $3 – brand new. After reading it, I realize The Help is one of those books where I would have gladly handed over full price. /gush

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is about three women in Jackson, MS. Skeeter is a white, rich girl who recently graduated from college. She does not have a ring on it, (all my single ladies!) unlike her lame ass best friends. When you meet them, you’ll understand why I think her friends are lame. The true star of the story is Abilene. Abilene is a Black woman who takes care of white people’s children. Abilene’s BFF is Minny. Minny is pretty much the best cook in Jackson, but no one will hire her because she’s sassy. The lives of these women, as you probably guessed, eventually intertwine.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett definitely had me shaking my head at Jackson, MS. I know I shouldn’t judge another state based upon a fictional book, but here in my ivory tower in NY, I can’t help but think why are people so nutty? (See: Mississippi Burning) I understand racism is something which is socially conditioned (i.e. if everyone around you is a racist, and treat it like it’s cool to hate on people, then you’ll probably see this as normal) as well as some other factors. Still, it just outrages me. However, the Help delves into more than the overt lynching sort of racism, but into the subtle below the surface type. For example, Abilene ruminates on when her white charge, Mae Mobley, will start to question if black skin is not as good as white skin? Abilene does what she can to raise Mae to be a good person and to see color not as a characteristic to judge a person on. She also goes on about how women are not quite as overt in destroying a person, but “No, white womens like to keep they hands clean. They got a shiny little set a tools they use, sharp as witches fingernails, tidy and laid out neat, like the picks on a dentist tray. They gone take they time with em.”

Minny, on the other hand, speaks her mind to the face of her employer and it often gets her into trouble. However, we see that Minny also has a vulnerable side beneath her tough, cake-baking exterior. Minny has five kids, her husband is a jerk. Really, all she has is her friends- especially Abilene. The sections narrated by Minny had me alternately laughing and sighing in sadness, as on the one hand Minny gives a certain character her just deserts, but on the other Minny’s dealing with some tough issues at home.

Now, Skeeter. Her character not only served to illustrate a contrast to Minny and Abilene, but I think her character subverted gender roles of her region. For example all of her friends earn an MRS. degree from Ole Miss, whereas Skeeter actually gets her bachelors. She’s intelligent. She doesn’t give a fig about fashion. I liked that she was career-minded instead of love-minded.

I can see where perhaps some may dislike The Help by Kathryn Stockett because Stockett presumed to write in the point of view and dialect of a person of color, even though she is white. I will say, Stockett addresses this issue in her afterword, where she basically says yeah I’m white and I can’t presume that I will ever know exactly what it is like to be PoC, but I can try to understand. To me, that’s admirable. Yes, this is a story about race relations, but it’s also a story about women and how they relate to each other, and their place in society during the 1960s.

Other reviews of The Help by Kathryn Stockett:

Steph Su Reads
B O O K L U S T
Maw Books
Presenting Lenore

five-stars
About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. robby (once upon a book blog/fourteen years) says:

    I've come so close to buying this book quite a few times. I'm so glad you liked it! I can't wait to read this.

  2. Christina/Book Addict says:

    Great review! I haven't read this one yet, but I need to pick up a copy.

    Also, I wanted to let you know that I gave your blog an award. šŸ™‚ Hope you have a great weekend!

    http://bookaddictchris.blogspot.com/2010/02/lovely-award.html

  3. Great review! I read The Help early this past summer and I wondered why it took so long to hit the top 10 and then #1.
    I read it on eReader and loved it. I thought it was one of the best books I had read in a long time.

  4. The more people review this book, the more I realize I need to move this up on my TBR pile. I cannot wait to read it!

  5. I am reading this one next week for a March book club and am looking forward to it – all the reviews are great!

  6. I've been wondering if I should read this, and since you've been gushing about it here, on GR and on twitter for the last week or so, I'm guessing that's a yes… ;p

  7. Natalie (Mindful Musings) says:

    I keep reading great things about this book, but I haven't picked it up yet. I might try reading it to sort of get out of my comfort zone. I usually will give just about anything a chance if it holds my attention, but lately I've been reading a lot of paranormal romance. Anyways, I'm really glad you enjoyed it so much! Thanks for the review!

  8. I've given this a lot of thought over the past few months, and I don't think I really have a problem with authors writing characters of an ethnicity and cultural background not their own. It helps get rid of the white-is-the-standard norm, and as long as they do it respectfully and don't presume to speak for people of colour (erasing their voices in the process), I think it's fine.

  9. I don't think that one culture can't write about another. I think it seems to get more charged about the black-white divide in America. After all, white people write about Asia and Africa all the time and don't seem to get backlash for that. It's mainly when they write about Black Americans that a heated debate begins. Which is a fascinating lesson in itself.

    I'm not sure I agree with you about Skeeter. I don't know how I felt about her as a character. She was strong, yes, but I also wasn't sure what her real goal was- to get a job or to help people. She had a lightbulb moment at the end of the book that was so delayed it blew my mind.

Trackbacks

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