Monday, August 20, 2012

Help Yourself to The Help!

Book: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Rating: PG14 for heavy content, brief violence, language, and some sexual content.

I read an “oh-so-true” blog post a few weeks ago by the brilliant Faith Hough ( about how there are three kinds of books: the bad ones, the good ones, and the great ones. She wrote that the good ones make up most of what we read, but when we read the great ones, they make us writers just want to move away from our computers and notebooks because we feel we will never write anything that good.

My thoughts exactly when I read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.

    If I was asked to describe my feelings for The Help in one word, it would be “Wow.” Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW. Yes, it’s that good. In fact, so good that Harry Potter has been officially bumped down to number two on my best books ever list. I have lost count of the number of times I have read this book.

    The thing about The Help is that it makes you want to get lost in its world-- even though it's world is a very dangerous place. The Help takes place in the early-mid 60’s in the anti-black town of Jackson, Mississippi. The story alternates between three narrators; the sweet Aibileen Clark, who’s raised sixteen white children; the sassy Minny Jackson, who’s known for her cooking and mouth, a dangerous combination for a black maid in Jackson, and ambitious writer Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan. Usually, I’m not a huge fan of books where the narrator changes with each chapter; Nicholas Sparks’ The Last Song or some of Rick Riordan’s books were impossible for me to get through. But I think the changing narrators is what made my experience with The Help so enjoyable.

           The story begins with Aibileen’s narration. Aibileen’s son was recently killed and she talks about not feeling so accepting of white people any more. Aibileen is such a real character with such real struggles and strengths. She is definitely a mother hen type of women, and I guess she’d have to be, after raising sixteen kids. She’s on her seventeenth; another white child of a racist mother.

            Actually, mostly everyone in Jackson is racist. Even, I noted, the black people are racist.

As I read through Minny’s chapters, I noticed how she so fiercely believed in small things, like not being anything but civil (and sometimes less than that) to white women, but believed in equal treatment. For me, this was kind of ironic, but in no means a negative point in the story. Minny, who is definitely one of my all-time favorite characters, is very ignorant at some points in the novel, but I saw how she was hurting, and that drew her to me. The same thing goes with Aibileen-- she had been hurt so deeply by the world. And I just wanted to get on my phone and call her and have a five hour conversation with her. Goodness, I love that woman.
Oh, and Skeeter. She’s trying so hard to make it in a male-dominated writing world, but her mother keeps getting in her way. Skeeter has graduated from college and moved back in with her parents, and the only thing her mom cares about is Skeeter getting married. My heart ached for Skeeter as she and her mother fought. As she struggled to write something meaningful, something she could publish. As she wished for love in the hateful town of Jackson.

These three completely different women. All from different backgrounds, shaped from different circumstances. All united with one goal. (Which I'm not going to tell you, because you NEED to read this book and see for yourself!)

Everything about this book was sheer wonderfulness. I have gone back to read it so many times with a notebook, pen, and highlighter in hand. Kathryn Stockett’s imagery is amazing, her dialogue, superb, and, of course, her characters-- well, I just want to take all my favorite people in that novel out to lunch, for goodness’ sakes!! Unfortunately, of course, The Help is purely fictional. Dang. But you know you’ve written a good book, I think, when your fans tell you that your characters are their best friends. I hope one day I shall be so blest to write a book like The Help.

Favorite Line: “Babies like fat. Like to bury they face up in you armpit and go to sleep. They like big fat legs too. This I know.” -- Aibileen, page 2

(Just one-- I wish I could post the whole book, but, alas, I have my own novel to work on.)

ALSO-- the movie! The Help movie is not nearly as good as the book-- what is?-- but definitely worth seeing once you finish the book!


  1. I loved The Help, too. You're right on about the characters. So masterfully created that you can't believe they're fictional.
    I haven't seen the movie yet--I guess we'll have to rent it!

    1. Oh, the movie is great. My parents really liked it, too. You'll have to tell me what you think once you see it!

  2. I think my review for this book was something like: amazing, heartbreaking, amazing, brave, amazing, beautiful, amazing. Found you through your lovely aunt.