Friday, April 29, 2011

What I've Read: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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.

The Help

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.

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Bowie Bunch said...

We just read The Giver in the book club I'm in. If you haven't read it yet...that might be an interesting read. :)

I'm just stopping in from Design it Chic….following along now.

Happy Friday.


Nicole said...

My mom read that a few weeks back and told me to add it to my reading list. It sounds like a fantastic book. The last book I read was Water for Elephants (also after my mom suggested it), and I loved it! I grew up loving Amy Tan and in the past few years have really gotten into Lisa See, so if you have any interest in Chinese historical fiction, I really recommend her novels.

I tend to read a lot of non-fiction, so I love hearing fiction recommendations.

Cecilia said...

I loved The Help. I liked Minnie the best, especially her revelation at the end!
The most recent "best book I've ever read" was Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa. It's an epic novel based on historical events in Palestine and what is now Israel. I think it was the fasted I've ever read a book and when I finished and was heading to the library I was like, "how am I going to find a book that will even come close to this?" I haven't found a book to compete yet, but I'm still trying.

House of Sarager said...

I just read your "Toph's Story" page and was so happy for you. All your other kids will be so lucky to have an older brother!

I found you on Design it Chic and am following now. Your blog is lovely!

Anonymous said...

i swear i didn't read this post but wanted to let you know how excited i am to read this when i finish the book. I'm on page 27, so far...LOVING it!
Have a super weekend!

Gene said...

Gin, another resource that would add to the message and impact of your book is found at this website: Have you heard of her? She's a retired teacher now, but many years ago created an exercise for her students to experience the kind of discrimination in the past. Now she has videos for teaching this. We used the video for leadership development training. The video would also be worth your time.

A Rancher's Wife said...

I loved this book and love Minnie! psst...I cried too!
You know a movie is coming out soon, right? EXCITED!
Did you read Water For Elephants? THAT is a good book and the movie is out now too. I heard RPatz is lookin good in that movie. ;)