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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Wednesday, 3 March 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Fiction: Historical. Unabridged Audio from Penguin Audiobooks. Published in 2009. Read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell. 18 hours and 19 minutes. Downloaded from Audible.com.

My knee-jerk reaction to rave reviews like the video included below was to avoid the book like the plague. However, the book club I attend chose it, so I downloaded the audio and set to listening. The book club meeting has come and gone, and I think I’m only now beginning to grasp why so many people were gushing. It occurs to me that the book acknowledges a bad time in the history of the US and has the characters fighting to overcome the injustices and to some extent, winning over them. Somehow, at some level, we want to think that faced with these circumstances we would not have just left well enough alone but would have fought against the wrong being done. A book like this gives us a chance to experience the history and by inserting some sort of work against the racial injustice make it a little more bearable to read about.

That’s not to imply that the book isn’t realistic about the situation or does not allow anything bad to happen to the characters, though the main characters do come away unscathed physically. At the end of the book it just seemed very unlikely to me that in the real world things would have turned out as well as they did in the book. But, I guess that’s why it’s fiction.

The book does offer plenty of insight on human interactions for contemplation. It’s worth a read just for the depiction of life in the 1960’s south.

Publisher’s Summary:

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

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 17th 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.

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