Skeeter: a young white woman, recently graduated from college, who aspires to be a writer.
Aibileen: an older black maid, who has spent her entire life in the service of white families.
Minny: a thirty-something black woman, also a maid, but with a mind of her own that she’s oftentimes too willing to share.
Set in 1962 Mississippi, the story chronicles the intersecting of these three women’s lives, as they each want change, but not necessarily for the same reason. Ultimately, their secret writing project permanently alters each of their lives as they break down the color barriers society put in place, but to which they are each expected to adhere.
It was a bit of a surprise to me, but this was the best book I read in 2011. I avoided reading it for a good long while simply because everyone else was reading it, and then there was the movie (which I still haven’t seen, but will), and I refuse to see a movie based on a book before I read the book, myself. Having said all that – I was pleasantly surprised at how well-written this first-time novel by Kathryn Stockett reads. I love the vignette-style chapters, representing the perspectives of the three different main characters, and I loved how easily the storyline unfolded.
While the story is captivating, and at times a little tense as we wonder if there will be severe consequences for the actions of these courageous women, Stockett only skirts the edge of segregation. The horrific events and circumstances surrounding the civil rights movement cannot be sugar-coated, and I did feel that The Help only gave us a glimpse of reality.
I really liked the character development, and not just of the main three characters. I especially enjoyed Skeeter’s mother, who at times made me laugh with her idiosyncrasies, but most of the time I cringed at her southern authenticity.
I really loved the book, and experienced a wide range of emotions while reading, and I cried when it ended. It made me want to read The Secret Life of Bees all over again. My recommendation is for you to definitely read it if you haven’t yet.
“My face goes hot, my tongue twitchy. I don’t know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain’t saying it. And I know she ain’t saying what she want a say either and it’s a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation.”
“Lines between black and white ain’t there neither. Some folks just made those up, long time ago. . . . All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”
“There is so much you don’t know about a person. . . . Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”
“And while I’d never lie and tell myself I actually changed the minds of people like Hilly and Elizabeth, at least I don’t have to pretend I agree with them anymore.”