This was actually my second time reading through The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This book is absolute perfection. It deals with race issues in the deep South, in the small town of Jackson, Mississippi. What I love about this book is that it focuses on the day-to-day problems, not just the broad issues like Jim Crow laws and civil rights (although it does cover those).
The Help follows the stories of Skeeter Phelan, a young college graduate; Aibileen, a middle-aged black maid; and Minnie, a young black maid with five kids and a mean husband as they embark on a project to speak out about the truth about life as a black maid in a white home. Skeeter learns through hearing and writing the maids’ stories that the truth is far more uncomfortable than she realized and far more important than anyone cares to admit. The book, the writing of it, its publishing, and Skeeter’s cautious and unusual friendship with Aibileen, Minnie, and the other maids who tell their stories turns the town of Jackson upside down.
There is so much to say about The Help. It is so well-written, and I appreciate what Stockett is trying to do through this book. What I appreciated the most was Skeeter’s character development. She went from someone who was simply trying to understand a situation, to, through her interviews with the maids and seeing how they were treated, realizing the need for change, and wanting to be part of that change. She didn’t come crashing in as someone who had it all figured out and was ready to blast through and rescue all the maids from certain doom. Well, she kind of did at first, but she was put in her place. And she became teachable. She learned. She realized that she knew next to nothing about what went on behind the scenes with the maids and their bosses. Not only that, but she realized she had been completely oblivious to the mindset the white people of Jackson and hundreds of other small, Southern towns had towards anyone who was not white. Skeeter’s character development was the most well done of the entire book. At least, it spoke to me the most.
The Help, once again, has taught me the virtue of sitting back and listening when I want to be part of something I do not understand. It taught me to be an ear to the oppressed so that I can be a help to them as well. It also showed that changes in race relations and eradicating racism will not start with legislation, but rather at home, with individuals.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett gets 5/5 stars.