Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Book review: The Help
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!