As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

July 5, 2011

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett, 2009

The HelpTwenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger . . . Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. . . . Minny . . . is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. . . . Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. (Amazon)

Review by Jessica Day George, Author and Bookshop Talk Host

As though anybody needs to tell you, gentle readers, to read The Help! I’m sure you already know what a wonderful book this is and my review will just—Oh, you haven’t read it?! Good gracious me! All right then, I’ll tell you why you should read The Help!

The Help is, quite simply, amazing. It’s a look at life in Mississippi at the very beginning of the Civil Rights movement, told partly from the point of view of two black women, and partly from the point of view of a young educated white woman who has always taken it for granted that the “help”—the black women who cook and clean and nanny for the white folks—are happy and mostly well-treated. All of the women’s voices are distinct and flawless. I never once had to check back and see which woman’s chapter I was in. Minny, the best cook in the south but with a temper to match, was hilarious, even as she dealt with the pathetic figure of her crazy white lady (a girl from a trashy family who has married into money and is desperate to be accepted).

Aibileen is a tender woman who has raised one boy of her own and eighteen white children. She’s sensible, kind, and always on guard for that moment when “her” children will see her as “the help” and stop being her babies. And Skeeter could have it all: the place in society, the wealthy husband, but instead she begins to choose another path. What I loved about this book was that it wasn’t about black women finding a sense of injustice and changing their lives for the better. It was Skeeter, the young white socialite who didn’t know who she was, and who was helped to find her identity by these black women. They already knew who they were. They already knew their strengths and their weaknesses. That’s not to say that Skeeter undergoes the only change in the book, but hers I thought was the most dramatic. It’s a beautiful book all around, though, with writing so rich that I just soaked it up. As my sister said, “The characters felt so real that for days afterwards I would wake up and think, I wonder what Minny is up to today?”

Also, you really must know about The Terrible Awful. Really, you must.

Market: Adult Fiction
Language: Moderate
Sensuality: Moderate, but only because of a pretty detailed incident with a male exhibitionist.
Violence: Moderate. Abuse and beatings, but they're discussed after the fact, rather than experienced on the pages.
Other Mature Themes: Abuse and death, but mostly racism, segregation, prejudice - everything in that ugly vein.

Book formats:
The Help (hardcover)
The Help (kindle)
The Help (cds - the audio version of this is excellent! You can find it on as well)

A movie based on THE HELP will be out August 10th, and the casting looks great, so don't miss reading this book before the movie is released!

To learn more about the author go to: Kathryn Stockett

To learn more about the reviewer and her books, visit: Jessica Day George.


Amy Finnegan {} said...

This is my FAVORITE adult novel that's been published since I don't know how long! I *very* rarely enjoy adult fiction because I read so many Young Adult novels (which are generally faster paced and have tighter plots) but I can honestly say that I didn't read anything - in any genre - this past year or two that I liked better than this novel. In fact, I can't remember the last novel that equaled it (for me).

THE HELP is such a fresh approach to civil rights - very human, while not feeling heavy. I'm waiting eagerly to see what Kathryn Stockett comes up with next. I can't begin to imagine how she can top it, but I'm sure hoping she'll give it a try.

Writing this makes me want to read it all over again (for the third time). 10 stars out of possible 5!

*A note to writers: We hear so much about "voice." Well this, my friends, is a master class in voice. Unbelievable skill.

Justin and JoLyn said...

This is going to sound strange... but after reading this book, I felt like I actually understood what it might feel like to be of another race. I love books that make you see life differently, and "The Help" did that for me!

Amy Finnegan {} said...

I totally agree with that, "Justin and JoLyn." I've read a lot of books that revolved around civil rights in one way or another, but I've never felt quite as "inside" the head of someone of a different race than The Help made me feel.

I've never found humor in racial jokes - ever - but I now feel wildly defensive when I hear one. There is just no room for this kind of crap in our society. There never was.

*Thump* That's me jumping off my soapbox :)

Heather Moore said...

This is a book that I recommend to people all of the time. It's just that good.

Kasey said...

The Idea Room sent me. Wow! This book sounds AMAZING! I really can't wait to get my hands on it and read it! Thank you for the giveaway! I really want to win this book..but either way I will be reading it!!

Jenny said...

I loved this book...until the end. It left so much unanswered I felt a little cheated.

What happened to Skeeters mother? What about Minny, Celia... The whole book made us fall in love with these characters, then it just ends.

To me it felt as if the author just got tired and stopped writing.