Book Review ~ The Help by Kathryn Stockett

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn’s new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who’s raised 17 children, and Aibileen’s best friend Minny, who’s found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.

 There aren’t enough positive, glowing and loving words that I’m aware of describe Kathryn Stockett’s touching, eye-opening, powerful and memorable novel, The Help.  And that’s my review!  Just kidding.  But seriously, I loved, love and will always recommend The Help to anyone looking for a good book to sink themselves into.  The story is deeply involved with wonderfully detailed character development.  As you read The Help you get to know stong and weak women alike.  Aibileen and Minny are two housekeepers, child raisers and in Minny’s case, psychologists/mother to her employer.  Miss Skeeter is the young lady who brings their stories to light, or more specifically to paper.  She is a graduate from Ole Miss and wishes to be a writer and to live in New York City.  So after an idea of a book partly supported by a publicist in the Big Apple, Miss Skeeter begins secretly meeting with Aibileen, Minny and a few other maids in their hometown of Jackson, MS to get their stories of working in the family homes of white women on paper. 

The other characters we get to know (like them or not) are the white female employers who are, for the most part, a disturbing reflection of the time the story is set in.  1962 Mississippi and the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement is where The Help is set.  I’ll tell you what, this book has a villain like I haven’t read in a very long time.  If they made a film adaptation of The Help I would be very interested in seeing who is cast to play Miss Hilly.  I HATED her and all her beliefs.  Miss Celia (Minny’s boss) was fun, hopeless and the most alone of all the characters but still was one of my favorites. 

The Help is full of great twists, edge of your seat suspense and heartbreaking moments as well as laugh/gasp out loud ones.  The topics will make you think and if they don’t then this isn’t the book for you.  Though The Help is fiction, I would call it historical fiction.  Author Kathryn Stockett grew up in Mississippi and is said to have based a few of the characters on her own family’s maid and Stockett has written her story through and around true historical events in this nation’s history.  We just celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and are getting closer and closer to February which is Black History Month.  Please take a few days to read this gem of a book and reflect on where our country has come from and where we are going.   

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

At one point in The Help, Miss Skeeter catches a brief listen of Bob Dylan’s “Times, They Are A Changin’.”  Here is that song followed by Sam Cooke’s amazing tune, “A Change Is Gonna Come” performed by Lauren Hill & The Fugees.

“What’s A-Happening Hot Stuff?”

I love that line from John Hughes classic, Sixteen Candles!  It’s so funny, awesome and can be used for so many things.  I used it as my title because I wanted to update you on what’s been happening this year so far.  First of all, how the hell did we get through the 00’s so fast and enter a whole new decade?  Crazy!! 

January has been good so far.  Every year starts well for me because the first day of it is always my birthday.  This year was the best birthday celebration yet!  On the 1st Hubby and I were joined by sixteen friends and family at Macaroni Grill for a nice dinner and then we had them all over to the house for dessert and games.  Hubby had asked me what I wanted my cake to be and I asked for cupcakes from my Martha Stewart Cupcake Book.  He made German Chocolate & Hummingbird Cupcakes and they were delish.  Half the group left by 9:00pm and the rest of us played Beatles Rockband (thanks Mom & Dad!) followed by Taboo.  That was hilarious! 

So to continue the birthday celebration, Hubby took me to Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise.  We had invited a ton of friends and family to meet us there and had sent out the flyer/invite in our Christmas cards two years ago but with the recession that didn’t really work out the way we had hoped.  We still had a very special time with those that were able to go, which were Hubby’s folks, his sis and her family and his bro’s family.  We missed my bro-in-law who due to his deployment wasn’t able to go with us.  We had a fabulous time playing our roles of aunt and uncle to our three nephews and two nieces.  What fun they are!  Except for the chilling temperatures in Orlando and the rain and cold weather on the Disney island Castaway Cay, we had a really great trip. 

Meanwhile, back at home, Rocky was at a pet retreat where his dermatitis wasn’t healing as we had hoped.  With the dry, freezing air here in the DC area this winter (except right now, with daytime temps in the low sixties) poor Rocky developed a deep dermatitis.  It is pretty nasty and on his chin and lower lips but seems to finally be healing a bit.  He is on a steroid, antibiotics, Benadryl, vitamins and a cooling gel to sooth the itch topically but to prevent him from scratching, you guessed it, he has to wear “the cone of shame.”  Poor Pooh Bear!  He’s been wearing it for a month now and has come to accept it.  Sometimes his sores bleed a little though and he has a disgusting habit of licking the inside of the cone, like he pulls his head back so he can lick the surface of plastic under his chin if we haven’t noticed the dried blood there and cleaned it first.  EEEWWWWW!!!!!!  I KNOW!  Here’s a pic of him from the other day when he was laying in the big chair in the sun.  It looks like he’s waiting for the artist to set up the easel and start to paint his nude portrait or something.  When I showed this pic to Hubby he almost teared up he was laughing so hard.  Rocky cracks us up!!

So, since returning from our trip I have had an awful cough and cold that unfortunately I passed on to Hubby and he’s in the midst of it now.  I have felt better for a few days now so I have been able to use my big Christmas present from Hubby.  My craft table from Potter Barn!!  Now I have longed for this particular piece of furniture for at least four years and I still can’t believe that it’s in our house and in my craft room now but it is.  I am sooooo LUCKY to have such a generous husband.  He checked in on my last night while I was making my thank you cards for my birthday gifts and he exclaimed, “You’ve got a craft room!”  It’s pretty cool.  Here are a couple of pics of it.  I love that I can just leave the room in the middle of working and not have to clean it up like I did when I used the kitchen table for card making and sewing when we lived in Memphis and Okinawa. 

Besides reading this year I will be working in here and happy as a clam about it.  Now I just have to finish arranging my office and the books on the shelves and I’ll be all set.  I might alphabetize my books by author.  Since I have so many it might make it nicer when looking for something.  Do you have your books in an order of some kind or are they just there waiting for you to pick then when looking for your next read?