Author: Kathryn Stockett
Published: February 10, 2009
Paperback: 534 pages
Source: purchased at Borders
My Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis (from goodreads.com): Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town.
My Thoughts: Following three women in Mississippi in 1962, The Help chronicles the hardships of being a black maid to white families. Two of the narrators, Aibileen and Minny, are black women who raise white children and take care of white families. The other narrator is Skeeter, a white, 23 year old woman with a college degree, no husband, and a dream to become a writer. These three women tell their stories in this moving novel from Kathryn Stockett, depicting the unfairness shown towards African-Americans and the bonds that they develop with their young charges. Stockett also shows how these maids have an impact on the children that they help raise; Skeeter never got to say goodbye to her maid and she always wonders where she ended up. Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter come together to write a groundbreaking book, where the maids tell their stories. They are aware that there are consequences and that they may lose their lives, but they realize that what they are doing is important and that these stories must be told.
There were so many things that I loved about this book so I will try to mention all of them. For starters, the characters. Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter are such different women, but each had her own distinct personality. Chapters shift between these three women, so a few chapters are told from one woman's point of view, then switches to another. Each woman's voice is clear, their characters fully developed. I found myself loving each of them (something I find hard to do when books have multiple narrators), cheering them on to be brave and continue with their book.
The setting was also amazing. Mississippi in 1962 is never a place that I thought would be a great time to live in, but Stockett does such a great job of describing the homes in which the women work and live and the town that they live in. I felt as if I was in the story instead of just reading about, that's how good Stockett is at describing her settings.
I love the convictions of the women, too. Skeeter believed in her book, that there was a story worth telling her. She also believed that there is more to life than finding a man and getting married. I LOVED that! It's so refreshing to read about a woman (regardless of race) who longs not only for love, but a great job. Aibileen was so sure of herself in that the most important thing she does is empower the children that she watches. She gives them love, which some of the children never receive from their parents. And then there's Minny, who knows that she has a right to be heard, that she has the right to be treated with respect and will speak her mind when it's not being given. Each woman is so different and yet they each have strong convictions that guide them.
I loved this novel and will have it on my bookshelf forever. It was different and enlightening, something that I think anybody would be able to read and enjoy. I cannot think of anyone not liking this book, and it will be one of the books that I recommend to people who are wondering what a good book to read might be.