The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Genre:: Historical Fiction
Pages: 451
Publisher: February 10th 2009 by Putnam Adult

From Goodreads:

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.

I want to first apologize for the use of the book's own synopsis as the summary for my book thoughts. It's a personal no-no and I hope this is the first and last time I commit such a sin. In my defense, I have rarely seen a synopsis that so accurately condenses what is really a quite expansive story, into a nice neat summarization. I tried to write my own but I have such equal relationships with the myriad of personalities in this book that I would have included them all and my summary would surpass the number of pages in the book.

Now, I have read all 451 pages of this book but I am far from finished with it. I may not ever be. My favorite subject matter in a book is the power of stories. A story about stories and this book is about many many stories.

It is the story of black maids in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, written from their collective memories of the families they have served, loved and suffered over the years.

It is the story of a young woman who takes a look at her world, finds it wanting and defies the rather harsh and rigid rules of her society to alter it.

It is the story of women who struggled under the ridiculous rules of their society at the time and the fear and ignorance that kept their thoughts simple. There once was a time when women who thought for themselves were shunned.
It is the story of a period in our history that didn't make a lick of sense and a reflection of a present time that still doesn't.

It is a story about love and a story about hate. People loving the hate that dominates their time and people who hate a time that frowns on who they choose to love.

This book took me through so many emotions. At one point or another I whole heartedly hated and loved every person in it. Part of me wants to bond solely with Skeeter but I would never let anyone walk on me, nor could I keep my mouth shut and take it. She did it for the right reasons though, which make me question my own selfishness. I adored Minny but then couldn't connect fully with someone who had such a passive few of domestic violence. But then I've never been helpless and I've never had someone beat me, which made me question my own narrow view point of things. I saw nothing of myself in Celia, and you would think that would be a good thing but it made me question my own lack of innocence. Mostly my heart stayed with Aibileen, who raised another woman's child but never once made the distinction between a stranger's daughter and hers. And I miss the hell out of Constantine, even though in the story we never actually met.

It's important to me for the "bad guy" in a story to have enough substance and strength of character to remain a bad guy. I lose interest in the redemption of the bad guy. It's bullshit because essentially people don't change, they evolve and I never would have believed it if our antagonist had suddenly seen the error of her ways.

Very brave use of language, even the author acknowledges this. I'm about an hour south of Jackson and we both know that if she had spoken out loud in the voice used in the book it would have been ill received- to put it lightly. On page it is poetry, heart felt and most importantly essential to the telling of the story.

I loved this book. I feel different after reading it- like it's changed the world, or at least mine.
     "Baby Girl," I say. "I need you to remember everthing I told you. do you remember what I told you?"
     She still crying steady, but the hiccups is gone. "To wipe my bottom good when I'm done?"
     "No, baby, the other. About what you are."
     I look deep into her rich brown eyes and she look into mine. Law, she got old-soul eyes, like she done lived a thousand years. And I swear I see, down inside, the woman she gone grow up to be. A flash from the future. She is tall and straight. She is proud. She got a better haircut. And she is remembering the words I put in her head. Remembering as a full grown woman.
     And the she say it, just like I need her to. "You is kind," she say, "you is smart. You is important."

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