The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Kathryn Stockett has written a marvelous book about the world of blacks and whites in Mississippi in the 1960’s. A world of segregation, riots, and coming of age. The heroine in the story, Eugenia &Skeeter& Phelan, has been away to college for 4 years and on her return is plagued with the concern of her mother over whether or not she will be able to attract a husband. She is too smart, too choosie, too tall, her hair too wild etc, etc. In an effort to get out more and quiet her mother’s critical tongue Skeeter takes a job at the local paper, Jackson’s Journal, as the ghost writer for Miss Myrna, a column that answers questions about housekeeping. Skeeter knows nothing about housekeeping and asks her friend’s maid, Aibileen, for answers to the questions that flood into the paper each week. Her talks with Aibileen lead to the beginnings of trust between the two. Skeeter longs for change in the south, longs for a society in which people are equal. She hatches a plan to write a book from the perspective of the maids, a risky venture for all concerned, and after much cajoling convinces Aibileen to help her.
Stockett writes in a plain style that keeps the reader wanting more. The plot moves along at a good pace. Her characters grow and are believable. I couldn’t help but have respect and admiration for the characters as they moved through this touching story.
The author describes her revelatory work in the following short paragraph,
&I was truly grateful to read Howell Raines’s Pulitzer Prize-winning article, &Grady’s Gift&.
&There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which the society is founded, makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism.&
I read that and I thought, How did he find a way to put it into such concise words? Here was the same slippery issue I had been struggling with and couldn’t catch in my hands, like a wet fish. Mr Raines managed to nail it down in a few sentences. I was glad to hear I was in the company of others in my struggle.&
If you are moved my actions and attitudes of social injustice you will want to read this book.
Review by Christine