Thursday, December 3, 2009
BookLook Review for a Favorite Book
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett is my number one gift book for Christmas 2009. I can’t give it to my dear friend Rosemary since she is the one who raved about it until I read it a few months ago. When you find someone who knows the books you like to read always listen to their recommendations! She wasn’t alone in her enthusiasm. My entire book club gave it their unanimous A+ rating. This is remarkable since these12 women rarely agree whole-heartedly on any book choice. Since the novel is set in the south, it is perfect for my mother from Virginia. Since it is about a young woman who is creative and caring, it is perfect for my daughter and daughter-in-laws. Since it has a beautiful cover … you get the idea.
The help are a group of black women working as maids in Mississippi in 1962. As the book begins, we hear the voice of the main character Aibileen as she describes her latest charge: “Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that’s what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.” Right away the musical rhythm of her speech transports the reader into Aiblileen’s southern world. It is a place filled with fascinating characters and many wrongs and injustices.
Aibileen’s friend Minny is also employed by a white family. Every day she leaves her own large brood of children to work for less than minimum wage as a maid. She has a reputation as the best cook in town, but she has a “sassy” mouth and a sense of fairness that overrules her position in society. “Civil Rights” is a new and dangerous phrase. These women are joined by other maids to secretly tell their stories of prejudice and abuse. They are trusted with the daily care of the children, but not with the silver. The guest bathroom is off limits and they must never drink out of cup or use a spoon, even though they are the ones doing all the washing and drying every day.
When twenty-two year old frizzy-haired Miss Skeeter returns home after graduating from Ol’ Miss. she searches for something meaningful to do that summer. Her friends are all married and the mothers of small children. She desperately wants to get out of the south and work in New York. She is in many ways, as trapped as the maids who work in her home and the homes of her friends. When a New York editor challenges her to write about something meaningful she decides to secretly interview the maids and tell their stories.
These three women begin a risky journey together to reveal injustice and improve conditions for the future. As they cross their societal barriers of race and position, they discover the courage and faith they all share. It is an unforgettable book. If you are giving a book to a woman on your Christmas list (and you had better be!) this is the perfect choice.