I am definitely not a writer, so I will probably not be able to give this book the credit it deserves. But I will try.
The Help is set in the 1960s and is written from the point of view of three different women - two "colored" (her word, not mine) maids and a white recent college graduate. It took me a minute to figure this out. I was appalled by the fact that the very first sentence of the book had a grammatical error in it, but then, as I kept reading, I realized I had to get my mind-set to read a "colored" woman's dialect. It did not take long for me to get in the groove of things and become completely drawn in to this woman's life. And yet, as soon as I figured out the way she thought, the book switched to the next maid and I quickly became engrossed in another person's thoughts.
I was raised by both of my parents. I never had a maid taking care of me while my mother played bridge with her friends and I certainly never needed to receive love from hired help because of my mother's lack of it. And now, as an adult, my husband and I both work everyday and tend to the house ourselves. But this is all very different to the way of life during this time. The more I read, the more I realized that most of the time the one person that encouraged the children, fed the husband, cleaned for the wife, and kept the family glued together was the very person they kept at a distance and alienated. These maids deserved credit for raising white children to become successful men and women but all they ever received was a below-minimum wage salary and occasionally some hand-me-down clothes.
Skeeter, the white college graduate, returns home from school to find that the maid that raised her, Constantine, has left their house without a word. Furious about not knowing what happened to her, Skeeter begins to interrogate her friends' maids to pump them for information about Constantine. Determined to become a writer, she decides to interview one of the maids about her life as a maid. And as she receives a good review of this first chapter of a book, she persuades Aibileen, the "colored" maid that she interviewed, to convince 12 other maids into letting her interview them too. During a time when segregation was everywhere and friendly contact with someone of another race was frowned upon, these women risked their lives to meet with Skeeter. This was their time, their chance to let their stories be heard.
To me, the book was eye-opening and wonderfully written. I enjoyed reading and learning from the different points of view and watching as these three women blurred the lines between their different races. It was definitely a page turner and I really wish there was a part two so I could keep reading!
The Help is Kathryn Stockett's first book and the New York Times calls it a "button-pushing, soon to be wildly popular novel." I read in an article that Stockett (a Phi Mu!) thinks there will be movie out in the next three years as a script has already started circulating.
So, what are you waiting for? Go get the book and read!