February 9, 2013

Book Review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett


As a practice, I don't usually review well-known books or those that had become bestsellers since I focus more on good books that are unknown or have been published way in the past that younger folks may not have had the opportunity to read. But I would be remiss if I didn't review The Help, for this novel touched me straight in the heart.

The novel is set in 1960s Mississippi, a time when racism is still a way of life in some towns, but is being confronted by rapidly developing civil rights changes. The story is told from three point-of-views: that of two black maids and a young white woman who is the daughter of a big cotton farmer and raised by a black maid. The three-tiered POV works well in that it allows readers to absorb the story from different perspectives, each one powerful in its own way. The novel took me into the kitchens of white families and allowed me to experience in a vicarious way how black maids are treated, mostly despicably bad, though at times with certain characters, the relationship (even friendship) between maid and master turns into something beautiful and touching like that of white aspiring writer Skeeter and maid Aibileen who helps Skeeter write her inflammatory book; Aibeleen and her four-year-old ward Mae Mobley (who sees Aibeleen as her true mother); and feisty maid Mindy and her white trash and sensitive master Cecelia Foote. The Help is a book that is hard to put down and makes the reader feel completely satisfied, yet sorry that the experience is over.
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