Tuesday, September 08, 2009
THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
Every so often, I finish a book that affects me so powerfully I just can't seem to shake it. It stays with me and I can't stop thinking about it. This is one of those books.
THE HELP follows the lives of three women in early 1960's Mississippi. Two black and one white. The two black women, Aibileen and Minny, are housekeepers who are both observers of the lives of their white employers as well as active participants in those lives. The white woman, Skeeter Phelan, comes from a privileged background but yearns for something more. When she decides to beoome a writer, she looks for a topic that has real meaning and decides to tell the true stories of the black housekeepers of Jackson, Miss. As Skeeter records the stories of these brave women, her view of civil rights and the world around her changes. As the book comes together, the lives of the women will be forever changed.
This book is powerful and heartbreaking. Stockett skillfully develops the characters so that you feel you personally know each one. I found myself becoming most emotional about Aibileen's charge, Mae Mobley. Aibileens loves that child with a fierce and protective love that Mae Mobley never finds from her own mother. The reader can feel how tenuous that bond between black caretaker and white child is and yet how important and profound as well. My only complaint about this book is that the villain of the story, Hilly Holbrook, is almost TOO evil. She becomes a caricature where Stockett could have given her more depth instead of allowing her to be the stock bad guy.
BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY recommended. I have to admit I broke down crying at the end of this book. It affected me a great deal and will stay with me for a long time to come. You find yourself wanting to more about the characters and what becomes of them but Stockett ends it in just the right way. This may be my favorite book of the year.