Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Times They Are a Changin

 The Help

Kathryn Stockett

Four Star

Review by Zorena


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.

My Review

A lot of the events in this book are very unsettling to most of us. It's very hard to see such raw racism and not come out unchanged. That's what made this book both a difficult and an easy read at the same time. The words and story flow making us eager to turn the pages but the subject matter sometimes makes those same words very hard to read. The humour definitely helped to break a lot of the tension.

The three main women touch our hearts as well as each others although it's not always an easy love affair. There is much mistrust and even some hostility between them but a common goal brings them to see each other as women regardless of colour. Ms. Stockett has drawn her characters most carefully. They pull us in and make us care. Even her protagonist rings somewhat true although a little cliche. Having lived in the south I've witnessed some of it first hand. I still can't help feeling that Minnie and Aibileen were slightly shortchanged when it comes to a more in depth look at their lives. We see a lot of the surface and daily occurrences but not near enough of their feelings about their upbringing and history.

Now for the ending. This is where the book fell short for me. Things were a little too perfectly tied up and there was little to no mention of the still uncertain future that Minnie and Aibileen would face. It's a shame to say but not a lot has changed in the south. It's just hidden a lot better. Again we seem to just get a taste of something good.

I still liked this book a lot and would recommend it. I really enjoyed Stockett's style and would read more by her.

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