The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I wasn’t sure I would like this book at all. Jesse chose it for me, on my Kindle last weekend. I was complaining about finishing my last book and not knowing what to read next. I had heard good reviews of it, but I don’t normally go for feel goody, kleenex box novels, and I generally novels that discuss race like this, because I can never decide whether they are being wallowy or not.
This book, in my opinion, had just one editorial flaw, which I will get out of the way immediately. About halfway through the book, a solid church-going woman says of the white woman she works for – “She’s like a Philistine on a Sunday, the way she won’t take but so many steps a day. Except every day’s Sunday around here.” Ms. Stockett, I think you meant Pharisee. Completely different concept – barbarian vs. self-righteous.
But that’s a minor point for her editor.
The book itself was well done. It was a bit brutal sometimes, but realistic. The story of a literary uprising of black women against the white women who employ them, this book is told from the point of view of two hired women and one white aspiring writer who is unsure of her place in the world.
The portraits, both good and bad, of the women of Jackson were well done, completely believable. I loved that the characters were all three dimensional, the cast of characters never felt too big or unmanageable, despite the three narrators. I think that my appreciation of the novel was deepened by reading the note at the end by the author, telling about her upbringing with a maid, who often soothed her in place of her own mother. I felt like this gave a certain depth to the situations she was trying to portray, and I thought it explained the times when she shied away from the most brutal racism and softens the edges of some of the hurts. It made the whole story feel more heartfelt.
And Skeeter? I always sympathize with a woman who doesn’t get her man and isn’t sure she wanted to in the first place. It’s not always easy to be the single one in a group, to be pitied and patted on the head like a small child, to be told you’ll understand someday. I admired Stockett’s handling of a situation I have felt pretty familiar with in the last ten years.