The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Reviewed by Renee Chaw, Radiant Lit
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Publication Dates: February 2009
The 1960s were a tumultuous time in the South. Along with foreign relations with Cuba, Vietnam and Korea, the United States was never under more stress and at war with itself. Towns like Jackson, Mississippi, were still hanging on to their old way of life. Many women who were the grandchildren of slaves still worked with cotton or as “the help” for white women and their families.
The Help is the astonishing debut novel by Kathryn Stockett that tells the story of three very different women. The lives and town of two African American housemaids and one white socialite, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, are on the brink.
Aibileen, maid to one Lufolt household and mother to over seventeen white children lost her own son in an accident. That, along with the untimely deaths of other young men at the hands of violence, push Aibileen to the breaking point.
Skeeter longs to have a career as a writer and witnesses many conversations among her society friends that really open her eyes to the true nature of what it means to be black or white in the South. Trying to discover what happened to her own beloved maid, she gets the idea to write a book featuring over a dozen interviews of maids who work for some of the most influential families in Jackson.
The Help is one of the most eye-opening fictional accounts I’ve read. I forgot that I was reading fiction many times and was compelled to flip the pages like a mad woman! I will admit I’m not the world’s biggest southern fiction fan, but that was before I read this book. In spite of being a very serious story of class difference, racism and poverty there were some moments that had me rolling on the floor laughing–especially the pie story. Let me just say I’m not sure if I will ever eat a chocolate pie. The best books make you laugh, cry and get angry all in the space of a few sentences and this story certainly does that. While this may not be for younger readers, I certainly recommend it to all adults. And yes, even the guys out there.
*R– Some strong language, alcohol use, violence and a scene of brief nudity
**Review copy from my own library