Monday, August 20, 2012
Review: "The Help"
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Help was an interesting book. It was funny and heart-warming and sad. But it was also really uncomfortable, as a white person in her 30s, to read. I've never been through anything like that and I have no idea what it's like. I felt like I shouldn't be reading this at times. This is even kind of awkward to write, but I'm going to try and please, please feel free to call me out on something if you feel strongly one way or the other about what I'm saying.
The story opens in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi with Aibileen, a black woman in her late 40s who is a maid/caretaker for a white family, the Leefolts. She is basically the main caregiver for their 2 year old daughter, Mae Mobley. There's plenty of segregation still in Jackson, MS and being a maid is basically the only job for a black woman there. They are forced to raise these white babies, sometimes loving them more than their own mamas, but can't use the same bathrooms or dishes. It's embarrassing and degrading, but these women have no choice.
Aibileen is a smart woman, but she didn't really have much personality in my opinion, even though she is one of the main characters. Her best friend Minny, a loud, sassy woman in her mid-30s was a lot more dynamic and interesting to me. The third main character, Skeeter, is a white socialite in her early 20s who thinks maybe things should be changing in Jackson. Skeeter dreams of being a writer of Important Things but the best job she can get is a housekeeping advice column in the local paper, which she has to use Aibileen for, because Hello? She has never had to clean anything in her life.
The three women's lives intersect when they are each humiliated by Miss Hilly Holbrook, the "queen bee" of the town. Skeeter decides to start writing the maids' life stories down and she gets Aibileen and Minny to help her. This is extremely dangerous and honestly, a little stupid and misguided on Skeeter's side. She is doing this to help her get a position at a New York paper or publishing company. She has no idea how this could affect the women of Jackson, black or white. She doesn't consider the safety of these women helping her, besides meeting in the evening on the "black side of town" and changing the names in her book. It seems incredibly irresponsible to me that Skeeter doesn't consider the ramifications of what she is doing. She's a white woman in a prominent family, what could they possibly do to her? That just really bugged me.
The stories about the women themselves were all interesting and I really enjoyed them for the most part. Minny's revenge on Miss Hilly was OMG hilarious. When she gets a new job with a new girl named Miss Celia Lightfoot, she ends up becoming almost friends with this white girl from the boondocks. Celia was an interesting character. I wanted her to be even more fleshed out than she was, I felt like she didn't get her story told appropriately. She did have one part that would be extremely triggering for some people. Spoiler, highlight to read: it was pretty obvious to me that she was having miscarriages but when she actually had one with Minny there, I was as grossed out as she was. /spoiler. I also had a big issue with the fact that Stockett chose to write the black women with an extreme Southern accent, but not the white women, especially Celia. Southern people, black or white or purple polka-dotted, they all say ain't and y'all every now and then. ;)
You done burned ever bridge there is. And you ain't never gone get another boyfriend in this town and everbody know it. So don't walk your white butt to New York, run it.
This review is kind of all over the place lol...I think it is a very good book and I would recommend it, but I would also say, read it as a "chicklit" book. Is it going to break ground like To Kill a Mockingbird? No way. But that doesn't mean it can't be important in its own ways. If someone picks up this book because it was so popular and gets a deeper message out if it, isn't that a good thing? I don't know what I'm trying to say here anymore :p so if you have any ideas, let me know!