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.

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2010 A New Year and a Fresh Slate

Happy New Year!!  Are there even people out there wanting to read this blog anymore?  I have been a horrible blogger.  Non-existent actually!  2009 started out strong with regular postings here and then our move from Okinawa to Virginia threw a huge wrench in that.  I have not had the drive to blog since moving in the house and to be honest with you, the only thing that has kept me reading regularly has been my book club (thank you ladies) that I started here in the DC area in August. 

So, with that all said, I am not going to try to back track and analyze the books I read in 2009 or even acknowledge the many reading challenges I attempted, including my 34 of 34 personal challenge (read 34 books for my 34 years).  I am going to start fresh and new and see where that takes me and you!  How does that sound?

Right now I am reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett on my Kindle for book club and I  just love it!  The character development is rich and full of great detail.  The story itself is riveting and keeps me guessing and on the edge of my seat.  Book club meets on the 24th and I am now 70% done with the book.  I am hoping to finish it by the weekend so I can get another book read before the next title is announced for book club.  Last week I had hoped to get more reading done than I actually did while we were at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise to celebrate my birthday but I am catching up this week since I’m sick from all the weather changes between freezing Orlando, warm Nassau and cold/rainy Castaway Cay (Disney’s very own island). 

I will only attempt to complete one reading challenge this year.  That is the one I make for myself, which is to read a book for each year I’ve been alive.  So in 2010 I will try to read 35 for 35!  I have read your posts over the last couple of days and reading challenges are the hot topics among book bloggers now.  What will you attempt to do this year or are you putting reading challenges to the side and just reading?