Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stop slurping the coffee!

I read another book yesterday...I am sure you are so excited to hear what I do almost, but anyway this book was SUPER great. And I know yes, I don't really sound like a regular reviewer of books...more like a semi-intelligent Valley girl that reads a lot and doesn't know how to express her thoughts very well...

Ok, I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It's a newly released book that I saw advertised on one of my many emails from Barnes and Noble...and lucky for me my library had a copy of it for me! I wasn't really sure I wanted to read I am sure you have figured out from my previous reviews and synopses that I read...chick lit. This book, however, is not chick lit. It's like women's fiction/civil rights fiction/non-fiction all rolled into one.
I am a history buff and could not resist the story of black women who serve white households in the early 60s in Jackson, MS. A very moving, compelling narrative split into 3 different POVs--Aibileen, Minny, and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen and Minny are black women living in the colored part of town, who make their living serving the families of upper class Jackson. Aibileen takes care of Mae Mobley and the home of her mother, Elizabeth and her husband, Raleigh. Minny is in the employ of a woman, who is put into a home by her daughter Hilly Holcomb, and then blacklisted by Hilly for "terrible awful thing". However, a new woman in town, Celia Foote, hires Minny on to clean and cook at her house in secret so her husband will think she can take care of them. Miss Skeeter is a white woman, a recent graduate of Ole Miss, who wants to be a writer.
The premise of Miss Skeeter's story in the book is the basic premise of the book... Skeeter, whose name is actually Eugenia, is trying to get a job at Harper & Row in New York, encouraged by a female editor there, Elaine Stein, who sees potential and asks her to write something worth looking at for the publishing company.
Skeeter enlists the help of Aibileen and Minny to recruit other maids around Jackson to interview for this story that she has come up with to write about...colored maids and the white households where they work. The interview question deal with how the maids are treated by the white women who employ them, how many times they have been accused of something they did not do, how many times they have been fired, etc. etc... and this started when Hilly Holcomb, a supposed friend to Skeeter, proposed a bill to Congress for Home Sanitation...a bill that would encourage women who employed black women as maids to build another bathroom for their help so that white people would not be exposed to the diseases that black people spread around.
It takes about a year or two in which to write the book and send it off to the publisher and in this span of time Skeeter finally meets a man who she thinks she will spend the rest of her life with...Minny becomes friends with her employer and helps Celia deal with some harsh truths, and Aibileen teaches Mae Mobley how to love all people, including herself. In the end, however, things become heated when the book is published and people start to suspect the book is based on Jackson. Hilly Holcomb begins to point fingers and encourages her "friends' to fire their maids due to some of the stories that were written. However, when Hilly finally finishes the book and recognizes the story about herself, she quickly recants and claims the book isn't about Jackson after all... the last story in the book called Help is about the "terrible awful thing" that Minny does to Hilly. You will have to read it to find out though...I won't give that away...
All in all...great book. A wonderfully told story about the struggles of women, all over, black and white, living in the South in the early 60s, dealing with segregation and the many changes that are happening around them.

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