Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel, The Help, is told from the perspective of three very strong, yet completely different women: Eugenia (Skeeter), Aibileen and Minny. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, these women, without knowing it, change not only their own lives but the lives of those around them. Skeeter is a young white woman who had just graduated from college and wants nothing more than to be a writer. Aibileen is a colored maid for one of Skeeter’s friends, Mrs. Leefolt. Minny is Aibileen’s best friend who is also a colored maid, although her employment record is less consistent, due to her having trouble not saying what is on her mind.
Jackson seems to be immune to the beginning of the civil rights movement and there is little, if any, respect for the colored help of the white families. When Skeeter approaches Aibileen asking her if she wishes that things were different, Aibileen doesn’t know what to say so she just pretends she’s happy with the way things are. Happy with how she is treated by her employer, Mrs. Leefolt. Happy that thanks to Hilly Holbrook, she will now have to use a bathroom separate from the rest of the family in the garage. Happy with the fact that one day the little girl she is raising will also see her as nothing more than colored and less than.
Aspiring to be an author, Skeeter applies for a position in NYC only be rejected but given the opportunity to share her ideas with the publishing company. She decides to write a book about what it’s like to be a maid in Jackson. After much convincing and agreeing to change the names of the maids, the three of them begin. Despite the danger of being hurt and losing their jobs ten other maids eventually sign on to share their stories for the book as well.
The Help is an incredibly powerful book and I’d recommend it to all of my friends. I felt like I was living in the 60’s and could just imagine what that must have been like. I came to love the characters and am catching myself hoping there will be a sequel. I am dying to know what Aibileen and Skeeter do with themselves in the future.
The Help gets 5 out of 5 stars. Incredible!