I finished The Help, by Katherine Stockett, a couple of weeks ago, and I absolutely loved it. I know, I’ve really been lagging on the book reviews – when school starts up, everything goes to hell for me, and it gets harder to write anything without suffering PTSD episodes of grant proposals and weekly forum updates on the vastly different ways to shelve graphic novels.
I think most people at this point have a pretty good grasp of what the book’s basically about, but in case you don’t, it’s the story of race relations in the early stages of the Civil Rights movement in 1960’s America, as seen through the lens of African American domestic help. More specifically, it recounts how a young white woman (Eugenia, AKA “Skeeter”) achieves her dreams of becoming a writer through exposing the hypocrisy, heartbreak, and at times humorous and sweet moments behind the treatment of black maids by their white employers; she is made privy to these moments through the assistance of maids Aibileen and Minny.
Here there be spoilers!
The story is captivating from the start, and builds upon itself beautifully at a steady but thrilling rate. The only complaints I could possibly put forth are these: 1) the ending is abrupt and dissatisfying, and 2) there’s some unresolved irony in the fact that Skeeter is able to gain such success at the expense of the maids. Skeeter does repeatedly chastise herself for this, and the maids do selflessly absolve her of her guilt, and ultimately, the publication and reception of the book does count towards the eventual success of the Civil Rights movement and therefore the eventual improvement of living and working conditions for African Americans such as Aibileen and Minny and the others, and they all know this. I, however, couldn’t fully escape the weight of the situation, particularly when it all ends so quickly and with virtually no resolution beyond what history can tell you in general.
Anyway, I (of course) listened to it as an audiobook, and the narration was spectacular – there was absolutely no room for improvement, I was so happy for long car rides so I could listen to any and all of the actors’ voices as they danced over Stockett’s gripping plot and lovely prose.
It’s a wonderful read, and a wonderful listen; it’s an important story with moments of absolute terror and tragedy, but a lot of heart and humor as well, and I absolutely loved it all. I can’t believe it’s the author’s debut novel, either, and I am so looking forward to what she comes up with next!