The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Kathryn Stockett explores the complexities of female friendship and race relations in her debut novel. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s, The Help explores what happens when you decide to take a good hard look at "what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else" (72).
As the story unfolds, it is told from the viewpoints of three different, but equally plucky women:
Eugenia Phelan, known to one and all as "Skeeter" (short for mosquito), is a 24-year-old college graduate who dreams of becoming a writer. Both physically and socially awkward, Skeeter is lucky to have a cotton trust fund (according to her mother) since it's her only chance of landing an appropriate husband.
Aibileen is a maid in the home of Skeeter's friend, Elizabeth. A gentle, patient, and wise soul, Aibileen has raised seventeen white children over the years, but only one of her own.
Minny is hot-headed and liable to mouth off. She's working for the aging mother of Skeeter's friend, Hilly, but the only reason that she's managed to keep that position for any length of time is because Mrs. Walter's is deaf.
I really love the design of this cover. Yes, I know that we shouldn't judge books by their covers, but we can't help being drawn to some books by their looks. There was quite a bit of hype about The Help, which came out in 2009. That's something that tends to put me off (will the book be as good as expected or will it let me down?) so I didn't try to get my hands on a copy despite the compelling cover and the fact that it's a debut novel.
I ended up requesting the ebook from the library recently, but not even starting it until I had less than a week left in my loan. I am so happy that I did read it. It wasn't perfect (for example: the black characters speak in dialect while none of the white characters do, even the woman who grew up out in the country), but it was gripping. I really wanted to know what would happen to the various characters, whether they'd get what was coming to them (good or bad) and whether what the protagonists were doing would make any difference. What I liked best was revelation of all the good secrets.