Finally, a book that I couldn’t put down! After a run of less-than-engaging books (including one I abandoned), it was truly wonderful reading The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. After only a few pages I was fully engaged and eager to keep reading. In the evenings this week I wanted to stay up reading rather than go to bed, and it was difficult to have to work when I finally had a really good book to read.
The Help tells the story of a young white woman who wants more out of life than a husband and kids, and two black women who work as maids, or “help”, in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. The three of them become involved in a secret and dangerous project that crosses the lines between the separate spheres of black and white. All three women narrate the story in alternate chapters, and I loved the three different voices, which were all really well done. The southern black vernacular was so well written I could hear it in my head, and after reading Aibileen’s or Minny’s chapters I felt like I could practically start talking like them. All of the other characters were interesting and distinctive as well and I could really picture them.
I thought Stockett did an excellent job showing the complexities of the relationships between blacks and whites in this time period and place. Everyone is humanized, but the lines are also there and the difficulties in trying to cross them are made clear.
Although the book is almost 450 pages, it did not feel long at all. I spend through it in less than a week and it never dragged. I felt that the ending was gave satisfying closure without being too sappy or perfect. All three main characters grew or became stronger in some way due to their involvement in this project.
I highly recommend The Help and I hope that Kathryn Stockett writes more books because I would love to read them!