Have you ever read a book that sent you so far away that when you blinked, you realized you had just spent two hours reading? Have you ever read a book that made you feel emotions ranging from intense anger, sorrow, happiness and bitterness? Have you ever laughed, cried and gasped in shock all during the same chapter?
If you have, then you can truly say you've read a great book.
I read a great book over the past couple of weeks; The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The story is set in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi and is told in first person via three main characters; Minnie and Aibileen, two African American maids and Skeeter (Eugenia), a young white woman and member of the Junior League. I don't want to write much on this book, mainly because I could not do it justice and I don't want to give anything away should you read it yourself (which you should). Essentially, the story unfolds as Skeeter decides to write a first person account about what it is like to be a maid in Jackson, Mississippi. Stockett's portrayal of these three women make you love them immediately; each for their different qualities that I believe each woman needs to possess in some capacity. I loved Skeeter's social awareness, her conviction and her tender spirit. I loved Aibileen right down to her soul; the way she taught the children she raised about tolerance and how she wrote down her nightly prayers. I loved Minnie's tenacity and tenderness when you least expected it. Stockett wrote these characters in a way that made you feel you were them and you were living this story with them. This book had enough mystery to keep you guessing, enough humor to keep your hopes up and enough surprises (both good and bad) to keep you reading. I would read this book in 30 minute intervals on school nights, and each night I would stay up and wonder what was going to happen next and hope it was nothing bad to the beloved three main characters.
The book is largely fictional. However, the setting and social climate are not fictional. To read about the treatment African American citizens received and the social inequality that took place during this era was difficult. The anger I felt was raw and made me have to put the book down, if only for a moment to catch my breath. The book makes you want to wish that "that" part of the book was also fictional or at least exaggerated. It was neither; this was the life that any maid might have lived in Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. Different water fountains, different bathrooms, different schools, different sides of town. Segregation in its prime. You lived segregation with these women in this book and you were in shock at their acceptance of it.
When I finished this book, I cried. Not the kind of cry where you get teary for a couple of minutes and then it goes away. Meaning, I cried and continued to be weepy while talking to hubs about it. It was that good. Go read The Help; it was the best book I've read in a *long* time and I am still thinking about it. I may even have to read it again; some parts were so intense that I would read so fast to know how everything would turn out. This next time I'll be able to slow down and relax more.
First of all, have you read The Help? If so, what did you think?
Second of all, got any good book suggestions? On my next library trip I'll be sure to pick some up! I've got more books lined up that I'd like to write about.