The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a story about african-american house maids living and working in the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi. I would put it under the category of “Lifestyle” fiction, because although the story itself is about speaking out on racial terms, what makes this book interesting is the daily lives of the characters and their feelings.
I go through phases of remembering I own a kindle and forgetting I own a kindle. I recently re-found my kindle which was a Christmas present. Normally I only really pay attention to romance novels, but I decided it was tme I read some better books. Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, I mostly downloaded fiction. Non-fiction makes me sleepy. I went through the “Kindle Top Lists” and picked a couple of titles. I also picked out Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer which I hadn’t read before despite having read it’s sequel years ago. Then I thew in Norwegian Wood, American Psycho and Fightclub just for the thrill of it. On my commute to the gym last week I decided to start on the first book which is called “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.
The book is split between three narrators; “Skeeter” who is white and lives on a cotton farm, Aibileen who is a black maid that likes to work with young children and Minny a black maid that has a reputation for running her mouth. The book starts with Aibileen just talking about her own daily life and work as a maid. There are stories from her past as well as the “present” time line. Then we move onto Minny and her problems finding work after being fired. The last narrator we are introduced to is Skeeter who is an aspiring journalist. Half way through the book the “story” starts as we find out Skeeter wants to create a book writing about the lives of maids in Mississippi from their perspective. It shows great danger to the maids and changes Skeeter’s life.
Unlike many stories set around the same racial topic, The Help does a great job of almost ignoring all the huge events that happens. For instance Kennedy’s assassination is made in a single comment. Instead we focus more on the personal problems of our protagonists. Their fear is about their lives and their children rather than all african americans. This makes the book feel more realistic for me. There are many books that talk about the bigger picture and stories about the activists during the time of segregation and black power, but this story is about “normal” blacks in the south who weren’t actively rebelling and how they lived in segregation and constant fear.
Each of the characters have very different personalities, giving diversity to the narration. Their individual story lines, although intertwine later on, still follow different paths. It’s also interesting to note that because the three characters intertwine, you see them through each other’s eyes and perspective- which results with each character having more depth and character development.
I also found myself falling in love with each character in different ways. Whilst I felt empathy towards them, purely because of their actions and personality the type of emotion evoked changed. I felt myself taking on their characteristics, and really felt myself in each of their shoes. The overall experience of the book was at first confusing, I believe many people won’t agree with the layout, but I personally found it to be a broader and more interesting writing style.
I was however disappointed with the ending which is left very open. I personally prefer stories with more closure, and it’s fairly clear that there will be no sequel written. That being said, if a sequel does come out, I would certainly be the first to buy it. I haven’t decided yet if I want to watch the film adaptation though. I recommend The Help to those that are interested more in the psychology of the average man than the heroism of the activists during the civil rights movement. Or those that enjoy a slower paced lifestyle story.