I grew up in the south. I was a big fan of Hattie McDaniel’s character in “Gone with the Wind”. The dynamic between her and Scarlet O’Hara was so interesting. She couldn’t really speak to up to her boss. She was the maid and cook. She was allowed to tell funny stories and sing gospel songs, but speaking her mind was a no-no.
The women in Katheryn’s Stockett’s “The Help” have also been sitting quietly before the wake of the civil rights movement and they have had enough..enough of living in a segregated society and being treated like outcasts. This is the first book in a long time that I didn’t want to put down and when it ended, I had not had enough. Not that it didn’t wrap up well. Stockett, a former marketing executive, closed up all the pieces of the puzzle neatly and satisfyingly.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, the story is told from 3 persons.
Skeeter, an educated young woman with no real plans for the future, is white. Aibileen and Minny, the help who reveal their stories, are black. The story starts and ends with Aibileen’s story. Aibileen is middle-aged and without family â€“ she lost a grown son to an accident â€“ but has raised seventeen white children as part of her duties. She becomes attached to the children she cares for but is able to take commands from her superiors even when she disagrees. Minny, on the other hand, has no problem with speaking her mind. This often costs her and she goes from job to job.
An aspiring writer, Miss Skeeter decides to make her reputation by secretly interviewing black maids and compiling the experiences into one book. Maybe that will be her ticket to New York.
This is where the plot thickens. While they are meeting privately revealing what life is really like, they all live in fear of getting caught. The maids fear for their lives. Miss Skeeter is seen as a traitor early on the novel and is treated with disrespect by her peers.
Stockett writes with such realism. Her sense of melodrama is keen and the story is quite funny at times. This is a real page turner.