The help by Kathryn Stockett

The help by Kathryn Stockett


4.45  ·  Rating details ·  1,636,495 Ratings  ·  78,723 Reviews
Download or read online for free The help by Kathryn Stockett
The help by Kathryn Stockett
Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

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.

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, "Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”




Reviews


Here is an illustrative tale of what it was like to be a black maid during the civil rights movement of the 1960s in racially conflicted Mississippi. There is such deep history in the black/white relationship and this story beautifully shows the complex spectrum, not only the hate, abuse, mistrust, but the love, attachment, dependence.

Stockett includes this quote by Howell Raines in her personal except at the end of the novel: There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism. An eloquent way to describe Stockett's intentions for this novel. I know most reviews will probably focus on the racial relationships in the book, but to me the most haunting statement was that when you are paying someone to care for you and their livelihood depends on making you happy, you can't expect an honest relationship.

I did not expect this book to hit so close to home. After all, I did not grow up in the South and completely missed the racial mind shift in the country. But the book isn't just about racism and civil rights. It's about the employer relationship too. And I did grow up in South America with a maid trying to keep herself out of poverty by making our crazy family happy. As much as we loved her, I can see so many of the pitfalls from these complex relationships in my own history. I know our maid was stuck between pleasing my mother and raising us the way she believed appropriate. I know it was physically hard to work from sunup to late everyday and emotionally hard to never relax because she wasn't the decision maker of our home and at any moment she could be reprimanded for making the wrong decision. She had absolutely no power, and yet she was all powerful to shape and mold us.

I needed her, felt bad for how much I imposed upon her, but I never voiced how much I appreciated or loved her. I took her for granted. Even though she was paid to love us, I know she did. We were her children, especially my youngest brothers. And yet when she moved back home, we lost contact. Was it out of laziness of our own narcissistic lives or was the complexity of our relationship so draining she cut the tie? It is my fear that she thinks we did not return her affection and only thought of her as the maid. I often think about her, we all reminisce about her wondering where she is, and more than anything, I just want to know that she is happy and tell her thank you. It is so strange that someone who is such a vital part of your childhood can just vanish out of your life. "They say its like true love, good help. You only get one in a lifetime." I know. Believe me, I know.

The story is strong and real and touched something deep inside me. I could so relate to the motherly love from Constantine to Skeeter, see that pain in the triangle between Aibileen and Mae Mobley and Elizabeth, feel the exasperation of Minny toward Celia, and understand the complexity of the good and bad, the love and hate, the fear and security. Stockett captured all these emotions.

I also loved the writing style. When style compliments plot, I get giddy. I don't always love grammatically incorrect prose or books about an author trying to be published, but here it works because it's honest. The novel is about a white woman secretly compiling true accounts of black maids--and the novel is in essence a white author trying to understand black maids. The styles parallel each other as do the messages. The point of Skeeter's novel is to make people see that people are just people no matter the color of their skin and Stockett's novel beautifully portrays that with both good and bad on both sides. The fictional novel cover is decorated with the white dove of love and understanding. To get us there, Stockett gives us three ordinary birds, a picture of ordinary life asking to be accepted for its honest simplicity.

This book is Stockett's masterpiece, that story in her that was just itching to get out. From the first page, the voice of the characters took vivid form and became real, breathing people. I loved Aibileen, but think I loved Minny's voice more because she is such a strong character. Besides the maids, I loved Hilly as a portrayal of the white Southern belle with the ingrained belief that black people are not as good as whites, verbalized as "separate but equal" so it doesn't sound racist. My favorite scene was when Hilly says they have to be careful of racists because they are out there. She's a bit over the top, but if you've been to the South, not that far of a stretch. I just would have liked to find some redeeming qualities in her from Skeeter's perspective.

While there are some instances where I felt Stockett was squeezing historical facts into the novel, forming the plot around these events instead of letting them play backdrop, and occasionally I could read the modern woman in this tale pushing her message too hard, Stockett's sincerity to understand and appreciate shines through. She lived this book to some extent and the story is a part of her. Because it's important to her it becomes important to me.
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“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, "Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”

Color me surprised. I’m not one to read many historical fictions, especially when they don’t include any fantasy elements. They read like nonfiction, and nonfiction is only good for me if I’m in need of sleep. B-but…

The Help is different. It doesn’t only describe the life of housemaids, in the second half of the 20th century, in Mississippi; it’s overflowing with raw emotion. It doesn’t put every white person in a box and every black person in another… It underlines the difference of thought between people, but also how similar we actually all are. We all want to live our lives the best way possible and be treated with respect.

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

I really felt it, when Aibileen and Minny talked about their work, how they wanted – needed – things to change and how hard their lives were. It made me sad, of course, because they just didn’t deserve the animosity that was directed toward them and that’s why I was so eager to turn the pages: I couldn’t wait to see some things change over there.

Miss Skeeter is also an important part of this story. She’s not loud, she doesn’t look for trouble, but she does have a weapon no one expects her to use in her advantage: her writing. She faces obstacles, so many of them, but does she ever back down? No, because when she believes in something, no one can kill her spirit.

I can’t believe the author never made Skeeter and Celia interact: they would have connected from the start! And was Stuart’s character’s purpose only to make us see how differences in ways of thinking can drift people apart? He is the most frustrating part of the story, really. We hate him, we love him, we like him and then we hate him for the rest of the book.

Never fear, the underlying themes of the story are extraordinary and that alone should make everyone want to read this book. Equality. Freedom. Racism. Respect. They’re all so fascinating because they are cleverly developed and included and intertwined in a way that makes this story such a precious and worth perusing one.

I would also like to take advantage of this space offered to me and recommend the movie. Seriously. Breath-taking.

“All I'm saying is, kindness don't have no boundaries.”
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Enthusiasm!!!
This book and i almost never met. and that would have been tragic. the fault is mostly mine - i mean, the book made no secret of its existence - a billion weeks on the best seller list, every third customer asking for it at work, displays and reviews and people on here praising it to the heavens. it practically spread its legs for me, but i just kept walking. i figured it was something for the ladies, like sex and the city, which i don't have to have ever seen an episode of to know that it's not something i would enjoy. i figured that this book was on the ladder one rung above chick lit. so i am to blame for my snobbish dismissiveness, but have you seen this cover?? what is with that sickroom color scheme? and i hate those stupid little birds. what is chip kidd so busy doing that he can't just pop over here and lend a hand?? it is not my fault for thinking it was a crappy book when that cover wanted me to think it is a crappy book.

but this book is good. really, really good. again, i thank you, readers' advisory class, for fixing me up with this book. it has been a long time since i have read such a frankly entertaining book. (if a book about the emotionally-charged early days of the civil rights movement can be called entertaining.) this is just an effortlessly told story, split between three different women, whose voices and perspectives never run together - the secondary characters are also completely believable and are all different brands of repellent, with some token sympathetic characters tossed in for the halibut. i don't even know what to say, i just feel all "aw, shucks, i loved this book" about it - there were several times i would catch myself grinning at a turn of phrase or a situation, and every time i would start to doubt myself, that maybe i would like sex and the city. or buffy the vampire slayer or all these things i have formerly judged without having read/seen/eaten. maybe i am like these white women in the book, taking their help for granted and assuming they have nothing to say to each other because of their unwillingness to talk to them and know them as human beings. maybe buffy and i have so much to learn from one another...

then i would snap out of it and remember that my gut opinions are 99.99% foolproof.

so for you other people, who need to be swayed by hype - i give you hype. this book's hype is merited - it would be a perfect book to read this summer when you are melting from the sun and need a good story.. this is a very tender and loving book, about hope and sisterhood and opportunity, but also about beatings and terror and shame.

still hate those birds, though.
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One of my co-workers, a guy who isn’t much of a reader, borrowed The Help from the library based on his English professor’s recommendation. The guy just couldn’t stop talking about the story, so I decided to borrow the audio book. It’s not very often I get to discuss books with people in real life and I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip by. Audio books are good for me. I was so engrossed in the story and characters that I drove the speed limit on the highway and took the scenic route while running errands. Sometimes I went out at lunch and needlessly drove in circles, or sat in the parking lot at work, waiting for a good place to stop.

It is 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. Twenty-two year-old Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan has returned home after graduating college to find that Constantine, her family’s maid and the woman who raised her, has mysteriously disappeared. Aibileen is a black maid in her 50’s who works for the Leefolt family and cares deeply for their daughter, Mae Mobley. She is still grieving for her young son, who died in a workplace accident. Minny is Aibileen’s closest friend and a wonderful cook, but her mouth keeps getting her into trouble and no one wants to hire her, until Aibileen helps secure her a position with Celia Foote, a young woman who is new in town and unaware of Minny’s reputation.

The story jumps back and forth between the three characters, all of them providing their version of life in the South, the dinner parties, the fund-raising events, the social and racial boundaries, family relationships, friendships, working relationships, poverty, hardship, violence, and fear. Skeeter’s mother wants her to find a nice man and get married, but she’s more interested in changing the world. Her plans to anonymously compile a candid collection of stories about the maids’ jobs and the people they work for will risk her social standing in town, her friendships, and the lives of the maids who tell their stories.

I loved this story! The characters really came alive for me, and the author did a good job acknowledging actual historical events which lent richness and authenticity to the story. I laughed and cried, felt despair and hope. This is an important story that is a painful reminder of past cruelty and injustice. It shows how far we have progressed and how much more we still have to accomplish.
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I read this book at least 4 years ago... and now I'm going back to ensure I have some level of a review for everything I read. It's only fair... if the author took the time to write it, and I found a few hours to read it... I should share my views so others can decide if it's a good book for them.

That said... did anyone not love or like this book? I'll have to check out some other people's reviews... And I wonder how many people just watched the movie... Oh well... I'll keep this review short and not in my usual format, as probably everyone I'm friends with on here has already read it! :)

The only reason I'm not giving it a 5 is because I felt like some of the stories needed a better or stronger ending. I truly think it is a fantastic book, and it makes you really think about what happened in the not-so-distant past... and probably still happening in some parts of the country today. Scary thoughts, but in the end, at least the right people got something back they deserved, even if it wasn't as much as it should have been.

The characters are very clear and strong. And when there are upwards of 10 to 12 supporting or lead female characters, an author has to spend a tremendous amount of time creating distinct pictures in a readers mind. Stockett did a great job with this task. Each and every one shows you a different personality: leaders and followers, movers and shakers, smart and silly, strong and weak, tolerant and intolerant, thirsty for all the world has to offer and content to stay the same for an entire lifetime.

When a writer can shuffle this many people throughout a story, they have invested themselves into the book, the characters, the setting, the theme, the future.

I haven't read anything else by this author, but just thinking about this book, and realizing I haven't looked at her other works makes me want to run to her profile now and pick one. Perhaps that's what I'll go do
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"I know what a froat is and how to fix it."

Aibileen Clark knows how to cure childhood illnesses and how to help a young aspiring writer write a regular household-hints column for the local paper. But she's struggling mightily to deal with grief over the death of her 20-something son, and she SURE doesn't think conditions will ever improve for African-American domestic-engineering servants in early-1960s Jackson, Mississippi or anywhere else in the South.

Aibileen's good friend Minny has been a maid since she was very young, and on the first day of her first job her mother admonished her that sass-mouth, especially her degree of it, is highly dangerous--but it's not long before she's just gotta mouth off....and look for another job. As Minny's first "episode" of the book opens, she is yet again looking for a new job, and this time an opportunity pretty much falls into her lap. Celia Foote needs a domestic engineer, but she also needs a friend, a real ally, even a confidante. Oh, one more thing: she needs to keep Minny a secret, at least for a while. I think this plotline was my favorite part. Celia's husband had formerly gone with (even been engaged to?) somebody else; did any of you wonder how they would have gotten along if he had married her instead of Celia?

But, really, which is the worse attack from Minny: a good sass-mouthin' or a good slice of her extra-special chocolate revenge pie?
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Kathryn Stockett has created this wonderful story that depicts life in America’s South during the early 1960s. 
A mix of humour and social justice, the reader is faced with a powerful piece on which to ponder while remaining highly entertained. In Jackson, Mississippi, the years leading up to the Civil Rights Movement presented a time where colour was a strong dividing line between classes. Black women spent much of their time serving as hired help and raising young white children, while their mommas were playing ‘Society Lady’ as best they could. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan may have been part of the clique, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she held herself on the periphery, at times looking in. Skeeter was unwed and with few prospects, though her time away at college left her ready to tackle the workforce until an eligible man swept her off her feet. Skeeter returned to Jackson, only to find her family’s help left under mysterious circumstances and no one was willing to discuss it. Skeeter sought a job as a writer, prepared to begin at the bottom rung, but not giving up on sleuthing around to determine what might have been going on in Jackson. Skeeter scored a job writing an informative column in the local newspaper, giving cleaning tips to housewives in need of a little guidance. Who better to offer these tips that the hired help of Jackson?! Skeeter fostered a slow friendship with one, while building up a trust, and has an idea for a book that could offer a unique perspective in Mississippi’s divided society. Skeeter sought to write a tell-all from the perspective of the hired help, in hopes of shining a light on the ongoing domestic slavery taking place within a ‘freed’ America. With secret meetings taking place after working hours and Skeeter typing away, a mental shift took place and the idea of class became taboo, at least to some. Full of confessions and struggles in Mississippi society, Skeeter’s book may just tear the fabric of what has been a clearly demarcated community since after the Civil War. However, sometimes a book has unforeseen consequences, turning the tables on everyone and forcing tough decisions to be made. Stockett pulls no punches in the presentation, fanning the flames of racial and class divisions, as she depicts a way of thinking that was not only accepted, but completely sanctioned. A must-read for anyone ready to face some of the treatment undertaken in the name of ‘societal norms’, Stockett tells it like it was… and perhaps even still is!

Race relations in the United States has long been an issue written about, both in literature and pieces of non-fiction. How a country as prosperous as America could still sanction the mistreatment of a large portion of its citizens a century after fighting a war on the issue remains completely baffling. While Stockett focusses her attention on Mississippi, the conscious reader will understand that this sort of treatment was far from isolated to the state. One might venture to say that racism continued on a worldwide scale, creating a stir, while many played the role of ostriches and denied anything was going on. The characters within the book presented a wonderful mix of society dames and household help, each with their own issues that were extremely important. The characters bring stereotypes to life in an effort to fuel a raging fire while offering dichotomous perspectives. The interactions between the various characters worked perfectly, depicting each group as isolated and yet fully integrated. The household help bring the struggle of the double work day (triple, at times) while the society dames grasp to keep Mississippi from turning too quickly towards integration and equality, which they feel will be the end of all normalcy. Using various narrative perspectives, the characters become multi-dimensional. Additionally, peppering the dialogue with colloquial phraseology pulls the story to a new level of reality, one that is lost in strict textbook presentation. Stockett pushes the narrative into those uncomfortable places the reader hopes to keep locked in the pages of history, pushing the story to the forefront and requiring a synthesising of ideas and emotions. This discomfort is the only way the reader will see where things were, likely in a hope not to repeat some of history’s worst moments in America’s development. However, even fifty years after the book’s setting, there remains a pall of colour and class division promulgating on city streets. While racism is not as sanctioned in as many laws, it remains a strong odour and one that cannot simply be washed away by speaking a few words. This book, as entertaining as it is in sections, is far from fictional in its depiction of the world. The sooner the reader comes to see that, the faster change can occur. All lives matter, if we put in the effort and have the presence of mind to listen rather than rule from our own ivory towers.

Kudos, Madam Stockett for this wonderful piece. I am happy to have completed a buddy read on this subject and return to read what was a wonderful cinematic presentation.
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4667024-the-help

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