Monday, July 11, 2011
Summer Reading Club Pick: The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin)
530 pages with reader's guide
Once in a lifetime, an achievement in literature comes along that literally sings itself off the pages! The Help held this reviewer spellbound from the opening paragraph. Told in chapters by black maids and nannies with a few chapters told by Jackson debutante Skeeter--who, by the way, is ashamed of the way her friends and even her own mother treats "the help." Skeeter is appalled by what she sees and hears at the oh, so righteous, white dinner tables and ladies teas. She begins to get an idea--why not ask some of the maids what they think about their treatment? How do they feel when a white woman acts that way? How do they feel when they can't even use the same bathroom as a white lady? How do they feel when they have their own plate, cup and utensils, and they have to keep them separate and wash them separately from the white folks' dishes?
This forward thinking is likely to get Skeeter into big trouble--her white friends may disown her and force her to leave town. But the trouble that faces her black informants will be much worse. In 1962, America is facing the Civil Rights movement at a time when lynching is not unheard of in the American South. It is during these years a church burns with three little girls inside, Medgar Evers is shot in front of his home and his children watch him die, a reverand marches to Washington to declare "I have a dream..." While most of the country watches on television, the events unfold in Jackson, Mississippi. The residents, both black and white, are a part of the country's seedy past.
Skeeter takes down the ladies's stories, typing them on her trusty old typewriter. She contacts a publishing company in New York and an editor agrees to take a look at her draft. When Skeeter realizes that the stories may actually be published, she works at a frantic pace, but she insures that the ladies' names and information is private. If anyone from Jackson knew what she was doing, or that black "help" was a part of this book, there would be blood to pay.
Book clubs around the country are going to snatch up this engaging read. The Help should be required reading in English classrooms throughout the country. It is this generation's To Kill a Mockingbird.
Highly, highly recommended for mature high school readers and adult readers. This novel has clear cross-over appeal to the ya market.
FTC Reguired Disclaimer: I had heard about this book from a friend and knew it was going to come to film. I picked up my copy one Saturday at Sam's Club for $9.99--the best thing I ever purchased for $9.99! I started reading it on Saturday morning and found that I could not put it down except to sleep. Don't miss this book. The cover says it all, "If you read only one book...let this be it."