Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Help

Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
Pages: 451
My rating: 5/5 stars

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town... [Amazon Product Description]
            Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, “We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.
            Author Kathryn Stockett defined the above words as the one line that she “truly prized.” They’re the ultimate summary of The Help. I could end this review right now, if I liked. But I won’t. Because I loved this book and I want to harp on it.
            When you read a truly great book, you know it. It gives you a thrill, an excitement that couldn’t be the result of anything else. The suspense kills you, the characters’ antics make you want to scream, and all you ever think about when you’re not reading it is ways to escape the mundane tasks that are keeping you away from the book. But when you’re done, you have an undeniable impulse to jump up and down and tell every single person you encounter how amazing that book is. It’s downright uncanny. It’s the power of well-written words.
            But The Help didn’t give me that excitement. Don’t get me wrong- it was indeed a truly great book- but it was one of those novels that has a…um, calmer effect on you. It touched me, challenged me, and made me think. It’s one of those books that isn’t thrilling, isn’t suspenseful, isn’t anywhere close to sci-fi (a genre I’m very fond of at the moment). But it is one thing: it’s unforgettable.
             I loved Mrs. Stockett’s writing style. Period. And I’m still stunned that this is her first novel. It’s not only a NY Times bestseller, it’s now a movie that will most definitely win a heaping ton of awards. I loved the amazing characters Mrs. Stockett created. I can’t really say which one was my absolute favorite, only because all three of the MCs (Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter) are all so interesting in their own unique way. Aibileen was old and wise, and I loved her sweet, motherly relationship with Mae Mobley. Minny was fiery, fierce, and feisty. (WHOA! Brownie points for Shelby for some awesome alliteration there! Seriously, I didn’t even plan that.) And I felt like I was one and the same with Skeeter. All three of the MCs made me laugh and cry. Miss Celia was the most hilarious of all the characters, but after everything was uncovered, her story really wasn’t very funny anymore. Hilly just made me angry, but for the sake of those who haven’t read the book yet, I won’t spoil it and tell you why. Let’s just leave it at this: Good job, Mrs. Stockett, on creating a character that was the devil incarnate.
            One of the most interesting things about The Help is that there isn’t any other book like it. I read historical fiction rather extensively, and I’ve never heard of someone writing about the black help in Mississippi in the 1960s. It’s a topic I would love to research more now that I’ve read The Help, and I wish I could read more fiction on it, but I doubt I will be able to find any.  If you know of any, please let me know about it in the comments!
            One more thing I forgot to mention: the ending. WHOA. Wasn’t expecting it to end like that. At all. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. I sat there snuggled in my bed for a while after I read the last page, wondering why Mrs. Stockett allowed defeat. Wondering why all of it ended so abruptly, so unresolved. But then I realized that it wasn’t defeat. The heroines weren’t lost- things just didn’t turn out like a fairy tale. It wasn’t a COMPLETE happy ending. Reputations were ruined, lives were put at stakes, jobs were ended, tears were shed. But through it all, freedom was born. Freedom to start over. Freedom to do what one wanted to do. Freedom to live.          
            In conclusion, if you haven’t gotten my gist yet, this book is amazing. Unforgettable. Yes, that’s the word for it. Unforgettable. I’m sure it’s story will stick with me much longer than any thrilling sci-fi or fantasy novel will. And that, dear friends, is why YOU must give it a try. J

Quick Content Review:
None (Not enough to even worry over- a black maid’s grandson gets attacked and beaten for using a white restroom; he become blind. Minny’s husband, Leroy, beats her for no reason. No description on either of these two instances.)
Sexual: None (Stuart asks Skeeter to go to the coast with him, implying they would stay in the same room, and though Skeeter considers it, she refuses.)
Language: Heavy (There was much unnecessary language in this book. I do realize that it’s not YA, but it was still unnecessary. I tried to keep count of it all, but I lost track after a while. In addition to the list below, God’s name was used 5+ times in various forms.)
G*dd*mn- 10+
H*ll- 2, maybe more?
D*mn- 20+
Sh*t- 5+

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