The Help

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett has been lauded throughout the blogosphere and bookstores as one of the best books of 2009. It has been on the best selling list since its release in February of this year. In fact, it was slated to come out in paperback, but this date was pushed back due to the generous sales in hardcover that have yet to slow down.

You might have been able to tell by some of my reviews lately that I am sometimes hard on books, especially when I hear such rave reviews and am less than crazy impressed. But I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Help and agree with it being one of the best of 2009.

A quick summary for those of you who haven't read it a million times already (hehe)... The book takes place in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights era. Minny and Aibileen are two African American maids that work for yuppy/junior league society women. One of the women, "Skeeter" Phelan, is more forward thinking than the other women and takes the injustices of the civil rights into her own hands by deciding to write a book about it. She enlists the help of Aiblieen and Minny to gather stories from many different maids in the community. Meanwhile, she writes the book anonymously without deluging the town because of the unrest and controversy she would start.

The Help is told from three narrative points of view; Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter. The characters are immediately engaging and maintained my interest throughout the book. The storyline was well paced and put together as well. Seeing as how I wasn't alive in the 1960's, and even if I were, my family was not the kind that had maids of any race or ethnicity, I was appalled at the way in which these women were treated. What makes it worse is that the white women actually believed they were being nice and/or were doing their maids a favor by treating them what they thought was kindly. As I said in my Sunday Salon post after I finished this, " it [definitely] roused some passionate feelings in me about race, prejudice, ignorance, and hypocrisy." This is a book that has stayed with me and that I will share with others and read again. It makes you think a little about social injustices, how far we've come, and yet how far we have to go.

I do have to mention that I didn't care for the ending. It wasn't awful but I would have liked it better if some certain things had been different. Also, I'm unsure how I feel about the fact that this story is very similar to the author's upbringing. I truly disliked the majority of the "employers" in this book and wonder how much of this story was true to the author's own life experiences. But regardless, the author did do a good job in both the writing of this book and in telling the story.

This is also the only book I have yet to read from the Fall Into Reading Challenge!


Laughing Stars said...

I really enjoyed this book, and I'm glad you did too. I love the way you described how it provoked your thoughts and feelings about racism. I agree that it's a book that inspires you to think about how far we've come and how far we have yet to go.

I know you don't want to post spoilers, but I am curious as to why you didn't like the ending. :-)

Lynne said...

I'm hard on books too, and there are quite a few books that everyone loved but me, so sometimes I'm skeptical and slow to get on the book bandwagon when there's lots of hype. But I think this was probably my favorite of 2009. I love books that provoke thoughts and feelings :)

Melissa said...

Loved the review. It really is a great book, and it is hard to just let it go, and move on to another book. It took a couple of days for me to completely digest the story after reading it.

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I loved this book as well. I WAS alive during those times and the story evoked a lot of what I was feeling during those times, even though I don't and never have lived in the South. There was a lot of prejudice around in all parts of the country before the Civil Rights Movement...and afterwards, too. We still have a ways to go!

When you mentioned the ending, I'm trying to recall that...I read this book at the beginning of the year. I'll have to check that out!

Jenny said...

Laughing Stars -- I'll have to make a separate post or something that's labeled spoiler so we can discuss. =)

Lynne -- Me too! And I'm definitely glad this one lived up to the hype!

Melissa -- I agree. It has stayed with me, and I read so much that it's not too common!

Laurel -- I'll post something later with my reasons!

coffeestainedpages said...

I just finished this one too and just loved it. The subject matter was shocking but I felt that the author dealt with it in a heart warming kind of way. It's my favourite book published in 2009 so far I think. :)

Greg Zimmerman said...

Nice review - thanks! You did a great job of distilling the essence of this book, and you're right, we keep hearing over and over again about how it's a "Best of 2009." Haven't really had much interest in it until you review - and just added it to my amazon wishlist.

(Cool blog, too - I just found you via one of your comments on another book blog. I'm following now!)


bookmagic said...

I too enjoyed this book. I had some problems with the ending, I thought it wrapped up a bit neatly for the time period.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Jenny! Now you made me want to go to the bookstore and get this book now! I was thinking of waiting for the paperback, but I think the hardback would be worth it since I've been hearing only positive reviews about this book!

Jenny said...

coffeestained -- that's a good way to put it.. she did deal with the subject well. I think this is my 2nd favorite of the year, my first being Shanghai Girls.

Greg -- Thank you so much for the compliment!! I hope you enjoy the book too!

Bookmagic -- I think I am going to make a post about the ending, because I want to comment on what you said but don't want go give it away to other commenters, haha! Look for the post!

Peter -- Yay! I hope you like the book as much as I did!!

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