Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book review: The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Goodreads description of this book is way long, but you can find it and other reviews here.

I may have been the last person out there to read this, but I thought I'd review it anyway. The Help was forced upon me. My older sister read it and decided my mother, younger sister and I all needed to read it and over Thanksgiving this year we would all see the movie together.

She only announced this plan to us the week before Thanksgiving, and between the four of us we only had one copy, so her plan didn't work. But! We all will be home for Christmas and plan to see it then.

Anyway, to give my own description, The Help is set in 1962 in Mississippi--a very prejudiced place. The book follows the stories of many women, alternating narration between Skeeter, a white 22-year-old girl trying to find her way after college, and two African American women who are the hired help to white women in the area. The three women begin a dangerous project together and hope to use this project to effect some change on the racist attitudes of the area.

As I said, I'd never had any intention of reading this book. Somehow, despite its being turned into a movie, I had no idea what it was about.

I ended up giving it five stars on Goodreads. I was invested in the story. I couldn't put it down near the end. I almost cried several times and, despite that the  book is quite long, I wished the story had continued because I so wanted to know every detail of the rest of their lives.

I immediately cared about each narrator. I recognized in every character truth from the people in my lives.

There's the quintessential mean girl, Hilly. Who hasn't had a Hilly in their lives?

Elizabeth, high school friend of both Hilly and Skeeter, is the kind of spineless people pleaser that gives mean girls the stage they hold dearly. Elizabeth has a young daughter, whom she graces with very little attention or affection.

Aibileen, Elizabeth's hired help, was kind and loving, but also fierce. She is the first to agree to the potentially life-threatening project the three undertake. I also related to and admired her attempts to help little Mae Mobley love herself and love people of all colors.

Minny is sassy and says all the things the rest of us wish we could. She is brave as many of us wish we could be.

I probably related most of all to Skeeter, who is, like me, a 22-year-old college graduate who wants to be a writer but has no idea how to get there or what she's doing, really.

There are reviews on Goodreads that say this book is an author hiding crummy writing behind a topic that can't be criticized. I disagree. Her writing style might not have been the best, but I don't remember thinking about it even once, so if it was sub-par, it was unobtrusive.

But anytime an author creates characters that are so true to life, that remind me of people I know or of how I am or wish I was--characters I can picture existing in real life--that is a huge thing.

I highly, highly recommend this book and can't wait to see the movie!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I read a lot. Here's a review of a book I read recently, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. You can read other reviews and see the official description here. (and while you're there, add me as a friend! aestrusz)

I’m not really sure why I picked up this book. I saw on twitter that Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor/writer of The Office) was promoting a book. I immediately put it on hold at the library.

I think one of the reasons was the title. I mean, who hasn’t though that before? (Confession: previously I hadn’t realized anyone else did wonder if everyone else was hanging out without them.) I had just read Tina Fey’s Bossypants over the summer and enjoyed that a lot. I knew Mindy from The Office. (Although you definitely do not have to be an Office fan to enjoy the book.)

So I went into the book with pretty much no expectations and absolutely loved it. I can’t recommend it enough. The structure of the book is a modge-podge: Some chapters are written as full-fledged stories from Mindy’s past, some are lists, and some are just her thoughts on different topics, like celebrity roasts.

Mindy is humble without being fake. She doesn’t glaze over potentially embarrassing moments, like the awkwardness of her guest-writing stint on SNL or her terrible interviews.

I mean, just look at the back cover:

That is not someone afraid to tell of their modest beginnings.

The stories Mindy tells range from hilarious to heartfelt. She discusses serious issues but maintains the tricky balance between too-serious and too-funny. I laughed out loud a lot, and related to Mindy more than I expected to. She talks about job searching, a process I was in for months and hated. She talks about body image. She talks about what has made her cry. She’s a real human person and isn’t afraid to show it.

Some of my favorite moments:
  • Mindy trying to understand one-night stands and defending those of us who are just not interested.
  • Mindy’s description of the women in romantic comedies that just don’t exist in real life, including The Klutz, The Ethereal Weirdo, The Woman Who Is Obsessed With Her Career And Is No Fun At All, etc.
  • Pretty much every chapter title and caption: I Love New York and It Likes Me Okay, My older brother Vijay, and me, interrupted as I was plotting to eat him (caption), Non-Traumatic Things That Have Made Me Cry

Most of all, I loved that there were so many parts of the book that spoke to me personally, and I’m guessing to a lot of her readers. Like the chapter Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities, where almost every rule made me think of one of my friends. When she talks about being a chubby kid and chubby adult. Her chapter about marriage is everything I want my relationship to be.

I loved this book. I guess that’s all I really have to say.

Are any of you reading anything fun?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...