Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I admit it. I have been avoiding this book like the plague the past few months. This book has just been too popular, on too many bestseller lists, and after seeing it front and center at every bookstore the moment I walk in the door I have not had any interest in reading it.
Unfortunately for me, my grandma received it as a gift for Christmas from my mom, loved it, and promptly handed it over to me for some reading. Instead of cracking it open, I tossed it on my bookshelf and let it sit for a few months while I played the staring game with it. However, it was only inevitable that the book would win at some point, and a few days ago when I was feeling rather dejected and in need of a good read... I picked it up.
The Help takes place in 1960s Mississippi and is a story told by three remarkable women: Aibileen, a black maid struggling to find happiness in her life after her son died; Minny, another black maid who has the magic touch in the kitchen but a sharp tongue that has gotten her fired many times; and Skeeter, a college-educated white woman in search of answers about the maid who raised her and then suddenly disappeared from her life. Together, the voices of these three women weave a unique and utterly honest tale of what life was like in a racially divided Jackson, Mississippi.
Here is where I admit that I was wrong in continuing that stare-down for so long. This book was excellent. With all the hype, honestly I was expecting some kind of trite Nicholas Sparks-esque novel, entertaining enough but generally lacking any literary merit. Boy was I wrong. The words flowed so wonderfully in this book, and the story was so engaging and unique. The characters were all incredibly flawed and beautiful, and there was such an understated feel to this unique story. The plot was well thought-out, and with each mystery (what was the Terrible Awful thing Minny did to Miss Hilly?) came an eventual answer that fit into the story like perfect pieces to a puzzle.
And so I have to somewhat grudgingly recommend this book to you. It was an easy read, and I daresay it will continue to ride the waves of popularity for a while longer.