Review by Ryder Islington
At 522 pages, The Help is a hefty read, but worth it. Set in the early 1960’s, the story is told in first person point of view, in the voice of three different characters:
Miss Skeeter is a 23-year-old white woman who is home from college and searching for a way to build a career as a writer. Growing up, she was a sort of outcast. Taller than the everyone in her class, a plain Jane with kinky hair. All the young white women in Jackson, Mississippi whose families can afford it, attend Ole Miss, and indeed Skeeter attended with Hilly and Elizabeth, the two short, pretty, high society girls. The three have known each other forever. But when Skeeter gets it in her head to write a book from the point of view of the colored maids who work for those high society families, well…things change. Aibileen works for Elizabeth. She has raised 17 white kids. Her only natural child, a boy, was killed, and now she gives all her love to those in her care. Her life has been hard, but she’s not a complainer. And Minny. Oh, Minny. She used to work for Hilly’s mom, until the woman was sent to a rest home. Then trouble occurred between Minny and Hilly and Minny had to find another job. Minny is married and has a passel of kids, but she works every day. And her new job is for a very rich young woman who wasn’t always rich. When these three characters get together, their lives change forever.
This book gives us a glimpse of what it was like back in the 60’s, when Mississippi was torn apart by marches and riots, when civil rights activists were killed, and blacks were found hanging from trees. The Klan was prevalent. Upheaval was everywhere. I’d like to see Ms. Stockett follow this book up with another. Maybe something from the point of view of those civil rights workers whose lives were constantly in danger, along with the point of view of the black residents who risked it all to help them.
The Help is a good book. I had a hard time putting it down. And it does serve a purpose, teaching as it does. It’s entertaining. There are moments of humor, and lots of fear, pain, and suffering. I would recommend it as a primer for middle school children, and for all those white people out there who never gave their black counterparts a second thought.