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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review of ' The Help ' by Kathryn Stockett

Just finished reading a well written , gripping book The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  Set   in the 1960s, in Jackson, Mississippi , it is a story revolving around  Aibileen,  Milly and Miss  Skeeter.  Aibileen  is a black maid at Elizabeth  Leefolt’s  house. When  Elizabeth has a daughter, Mae Mobley.  she  takes on the task of caring for her. Mae Mobley is a sweet child  and Aibileen  dotes on her. Aibileen is the soul of the book , especially in scenes that have her raising Mae Mobley.  Having endured the pain of losing her only son in a freak accident she showers her love on the white child  in her care.

Miss Skeeter is a young white woman,  raised  and loved by her  black maid, Constantine. When Miss  Skeeter  goes away to school  she stays in touch with Constantine through letters. But then  the letters suddenly stop. When she comes back home  she finds that the maid is no longer with the family. All attempts to find Constantine’s whereabouts draw a blank. Little does she know at that time, she will never see her black maid again.

 Minny,   Aibileen’s  friend,  is a sassy character, who loves cooking and cannot keep her mouth shut.  She rubs  Miss Hilly the wrong way and pays for it by being dubbed a thief by   Miss Hilly. The latter is the  villain of the story. She campaigns to have the white households install extra toilets so that colored help will not have to use the  bathrooms  of the white families. She raises funds  for the sake of “the Poor Starving Children of Africa” while treating the  blacks of Jackson as if they were not human.

Elizabeth  Leefolt’s  Hilly Holbrook and  Skeeter  have  grown up together and are friends. When Skeeter returns  they maintain that relationship. But Skeeter begins to see a different world from  the one she remembers. She begins to pay attention to the interaction of the maids and the families they work for. She tries  to get the maids to tell their stories but finds no one is willing to speak openly.

 Skeeter  finds a job with the Jackson Journal. She is to  write the Miss Myrna column, a column that supplies answers to domestic questions. Her friend , Elizabeth,  allows her to ask Abilieen  for answers. The two women form a fragile and uneasy  bond .This bond is to later  shake the very foundations of the  lives  of the whites and the blacks living in Jackson, Missisippi.

 Stockett’s characters are strong, well etched and believable. The  humor ,many a times, evokes a smile.  The pain and anguish, of both the domestic black servants working in white households and of the white ‘Missus’ ,  can be felt sharply .The pain pulls one into the story as much as the humor does. 

The story hurtles towards its climax when  Skeeter comes across a copy of Jim Crow laws and   begins dating the son of an intolerant local politician and  as  both Aibileen and Minny become increasingly privy to the secrets of their employers’ households.
If you haven’t read the book yet you simply must.

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