Gov Reads: The Help

I know that I just finished a review for GovReads (available here) but as you know, if you read it, I was not all that enamoured of it. So I really wanted to choose a book that was a great choice for Women’s History Month and this year’s theme (Writing Women of Color Back into History). The Help is that book.

Now I know that if you were in high school in the last 30 years, we all had to read books that deal with race relations in the South during the Jim Crow era (the time between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Act). And what wonderful books they were: To Kill a Mockingbird, Roots, and Black Boy to name a few.

But The Help is different. However, let’s start with summary from the publisher:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

By far my favorite narrator (there are three of them) is Abilene, the most heart-wrenching character. Her description of the children she’s raised, the loss of her son, working for women who think she is an inferior human being all make here part of who she is. I was so happy that hers was the first and last voice of the book. If the book is really about how women relate to each other, Abileen embodies all the good characteristics that we as women should want. And that is what makes it more about race (though it is an important part of the book) or class: it’s about the women in that era and standing up for what you believe in.

All three women have a distinct voice and the author brings each one to life in a wonderful real way. If the last book was about women who constantly were trying to be part of something, or who wanted to DO something, then these women are the kinds that go out and DO that something.

And now to my rating system:
Buy it NOW!– this is reserved for the best books
Paperback on an Airplane– It’s a good read, but if you leave it in the seat, you won’t be crushed.
Borrow it– From the library or from a friend, that way if you don’t like it or don’t find it especially moving, as I suspect you might, you won’t have spent your hard earned money on it.
Wait for the move– The book is awful, but it might make a great film.
Skip it altogether– I hated it, I think you will too.

For The Help- I am going with Buy it NOW!
For Kindle users- Download*

*Some of you have pointed out that my rating system does not apply to Kindle owners (or Nook, or any eReaders), so I am adding an extra review for those people: Download or Don’t Download. If it’s a Don’t Download you can then follow the rest rating system above.

You can find the book here.

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I agree – this is one of the best books I’ve read lately. Actually, I listened to the audio version and I highly recommend it. The reading is excellent (if I remember correctly, they even used different readers for the different characters) and the characters really come to life. This is a story of struggle, of defeats & triumphs, pain & healing, friendship & enmity, and, most of all, it’s about women from very different places in society who come together with the courage to tell a story to the world that has never been heard before by white, middle/upper class society.