Monday, August 29, 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

The Help
Skeeter is not like most of the other women living in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi.  She is unmarried, holds a college degree, and sees the racial injustice all around here.  She dreams of becoming a writer, and enlists the hired maids of her friends to write a book detailing what it is like for black women to work for white women in the South.  At first the black women fear their own safety, since they are breaking integration laws by meeting with Skeeter, but as the nation's political climate reaches a boiling point, the women begin to trust Skeeter, and many begin to consider her a friend.  The white society women feel the stirrings of change, headed by Hilly, seek to ostracize Skeeter and further racial divisions.

I am ashamed to admit that I bought this book nearly two years ago, and it has sat on my bookshelf, unread.  I always knew I would get around to it, and when I learned of the film adaptation being released, I was determined to read the book, in order to best enjoy the movie.  I am saddened that I waited so long to read why will forever be one of my favorite modern American novels.  I found the story to be full of heart.

I loved so many of the characters, those we learn of from their first person narratives especially.  And while I hate to admit it, I loved Hilly.  She was a fantastic villain, and subtle in her villainy.  I was happy to learn she got her, shall we say, just desserts.  I thought both the characters and the story were well developed, and literally felt transported to another time and place while reading.  It was no surprise to me that it took me a little under 32 hours to read the whole book.  It was just that compelling to me.

I see many reviewers calling racism and getting upset about the use of certain dialects in the book, but to me, it had a similar feel to The Color Purple.  Perhaps it is me wanting to see the best in the author's intent, but I really did not find anything about the book intentionally racist; I felt the author did her best, within the scope of her intention to write a fictional novel, to show the way things may have been (notice I said may have been, as opposed to definitely were) in a particular time and place.  Since the characters and story are in fact fiction, the author has all rights to write as she pleases.  Calling it racist is, in my opinion, claiming Harry Potter novels include prejudicial language regarding non-magical persons.  In short, I find it, within the scope of fiction, a non-issue.

This book is from my personal library.

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