The Help

Sep 14, 2009

the-help-book-coverI’m taking the title of this section, “What We’re Reading,” seriously, because I’m posting about a book that I’m only halfway through. But I stayed up two hours too late last night reading it, and I can’t wait to get back to it tonight. So this is not a review, it’s a report on what I’m reading, and I’m hoping to hear from some of you who have read the book.

I’m not a book club person — never been in a single one, which is almost unheard of for a woman of my age and socio-educational background — but I almost wish I was for The Help. Because it partly rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go, when young, blond author Kathryn Stockett writes in the voice of one of her three main characters, Aibileen. It’s the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, and Aibileen is a maid for a noxious young white wife and mother. Stockett’s Aibileen speaks in a way that at first seemed terribly clichéed, with “reckons” and “I’m gone do thats.” And some of the white women who employ Aibileen and her friends (including Minny, another of the three main characters) are contemptible almost to the point of implausibility.

And yet…. it’s a great read, impossible to put down, and now that I’m halfway through it, Aibileen and Minny are totally alive, and the language seems natural. The third protaganist, a wealthy, independent-minded young woman named Skeeter, is taking on serious depth. She’s immersing herself in the lives of black Southern maids, who were relied upon to raise the white children but often not trusted with the silver, and the civil rights movement is just beginning to roil. The lives of these three women are now intertwined, and I’m greatly looking forward to discovering what happens. I’m not the least bit surprised that it’s become a book-club sensation around the country. Pick it up soon, because if you haven’t heard your friends talking about it yet, you will soon enough.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett ($24.95); available at Vroman’s and all local booksellers.



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