Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Help

There are good books, and there are great books. And then there is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It's in a category all by itself.

You've probably already read it, since I seem to be behind everyone else when it comes to discovering best sellers. But just in case you haven't, I'll try to sum it up on a few sentences.

For starters, in this book the word "Help" is a noun referring to African American women who work as maids, caregivers, cooks, nannies, etc in the homes of white families.

The novel is set in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s civil rights movement and focuses primarily on three women. Two of the women are black, and work as "the help" for white families. The other main character is a young, white woman who becomes sympathetic towards these black women. These three ladies secretly band together to write a book about the relationships between "the help" and the white women who employ them.

Of course I found myself cheering for the two main "help" characters in this book. These women worked 10-hour days, six days a week at every domestic chore imaginable with very little, if any, appreciation. Then they would go home and do it all over again for their own families. They were caring, funny, bitter, hopeful, prideful, humble, scared and brave all at the same time. Incredible women!

And the white woman, known as Miss Skeeter, who came to recognize what a vital role black women were playing within white families in Mississippi. The more she learned about "the help" as real women just trying to survive in a crazy, unfair world...the more she realized how much they had in common.

My favorite lines from the book:

"There is so much you don't know about a person. I wonder if I could've made her days a little bit easier, if I'd tried. If I'd treated her a little nicer. 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."

I could go on and on about how this book touched me. As I read it, I thought about my personal experiences growing up in south central Texas among many African Americans. Looking back, I see unjust things that I was too naive realize at the time.

And I thought about the important role that women play in every aspect of society. Ordinary, everyday women who go about their lives in extraordinary ways as they try to make a difference.

Thank you Kathryn Stockett, for helping me try to understand. I hope I never stop trying.


Meili said...

I LOVE The Help too. As a Utah girl, I haven't had the experiences you had growing up in Texas, but as I read it, I thought about how it was set during the time my house was built (1962), and I wondered what would have happened in my house at the time had it been in a different state.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I too loved this book. Not an all time favorite, but at the top of my likes very much. It's one that really makes you think about the person that you are.

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