While I enjoy a good story and read a lot of popular fiction, I am usually able to discipline myself to keep the book within the allotted reading times — during breakfast and lunch. (dinner time I spend with my husband) bedtime, and some evenings when I am not working on a puzzle or doing some knitting or quilting.
However, The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a book that has refused to stay within the designated bounds. My breakfast and lunch breaks stretch much longer than normal and my nighttime reading threatens to become early-morning reading.
Perhaps the story resonates with me because it deals with the Civil Rights era, which was an important part of my life in college as I started developing a social awareness beyond the totally white suburb in which I grew up.
But the truth is, the story and the characters and the writing are all so compelling it is like I am in this place – Jackson Mississippi — with these people — Abileen, Skeeter, and Minny as they decide to write a book about the way colored help is treated.
This book takes an honest and engaging look at a period in history when people were openly racist, especially in the deep south. People didn’t question the attitudes of the era that included mistreating and even despising the black women who worked as their maids and raised their children.
The story is told from the point of views of the three central characters, Skeeter the white woman who comes up with the idea to write the book, Abileen, the first maid to agree to help, and Minny, the outspoken maid who has lost too many jobs because she dares challenge an insult or injury. Each POV is distinct, and the voices of Abileen and Minny reflect the Black vernacular and racy humor without reminding the reader of “Amos ‘n Andy” the classic television program that spoofed the Black experience more than it portrayed its reality.
Stockett has woven a masterful story that gives the reader a glimpse of an important social awakening as it affected people on both sides of the racial divide. It will please readers who want to explore social issues, but it will also please readers who just love a good story. It works on both levels.