Book Review: The Help

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"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 seventeenth 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."

The Help is a book recommended to me multiple times, and I'm glad I finally picked it up. I may even see the movie now! It tells the story of multiple women, through three narrators- all outcasts in different ways, during the 1960's in Mississippi. 

The Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Kennedy, Rosa Parks...seeing how closely in time these events (and more) occurred was a refreshing look at a frightening time in history. I cannot imagine what it was like to be a black domestic employee in such a racially-charged area, essentially a second-class citizen, but this book does a nice job of portraying both good and bad extremes.

In terms of how true-to-life it is, I don't know- I grew up in a racially diverse area with no history of slavery, so I imagine the answer to that question depends on who is asking. From the stories I've gotten from my mom (who dated a black man in late 60's- and he broke up with her because of the fear that white people would find out and kill him for it; she also taught in a very poor area of South Carolina in 1972 and the stories of those black kids would break your heart), it seems an honest enough amalgam. It definitely brought to vivid life the little cruelties, but also the community (in both negative and positive aspects), of that area and era. It also weaves in a 'women coming into her own' story.

I liked the ending, even though I usually rail against all-loose-ends-tied-up endings, simply because I wanted to throttle Hilly so many times throughout the book. From Stockett's afterward, there may have been a bit of Mary Sueing of Skeeter, but it also may be Skeeter is based in her experience, in order for the author to have a point of reference. 

I recommend it for fans of 20th century historical fiction, the American South, the 1960's, the Civil Rights movement, female protagonists, stories that come together because of multiple perspectives, and anyone who liked the movie.

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