Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Help

I recently returned from a road trip to visit my brother's family in North Carolina. It was a nice trip. It was just the kids and me, as my husband is enrolled in classes this summer and couldn't miss class and especially the test that was scheduled for Monday. Fortunately, my parents were willing to go slightly out of their way to ride down with us on the nearly 8 hour drive.

Before the trip and on the trip, I had been reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I was deeply drawn into the book and I had gotten a notice from the library that it was due, so I decided to spend my free time finishing the book. Now that I am finished, I am glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I first learned of the book because some women I work with were reading it for a book club meeting. I had put a hold on the book at the library, but it didn't come in early enough for me to read it and join them for their discussion.

The book relays the story of three women who come together on a project to tell the story of colored maids working for white women in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. The book is set in 1962 and is told from the perspective of the three main characters. First, Skeeter is a young, white woman who has just graduated from Ole Miss and is living at home. She wants to be a writer/editor and an application that she made for a Senior Editor position in New York leads her to formulate the idea of writing a book about the experiences of the colored maids working for white women. Second is Aibileen, who has been a maid and nanny for years. She has raised 17 white children in her career. She works for Skeeter's friend and starts by helping Skeeter with an article she writes for the local paper and then agrees to share her story for the book. Third is Minny, she is Aibileen's best friend. She is an excellent cook, but her loose tongue has cost her many a job. She had worked for the mother of Skeeter's friend, but now has a new job. With some convincing, she agrees to also share her stories.

When I first started reading the book, it took a few chapters for me to get used to reading the chapters told from the perspective of the maids. They were told in their own vernacular and initially it took me longer to read and understand the language. It didn't take long for me to get to the point where I no longer noticed the vernacular and simply was able to read the story.

Kathryn did a great job, not only in development of the characters that you can't help but love, but also in telling a poignant story. You learn about some wonderful relationships that exist between the maids and the families that they work for. You find maids who are treated so well by their employers and others that are treated so unfairly. You are amazed at how some women can be great mothers, and still be mean and vindictive to those that they didn't consider to be worthy. There were moms that I couldn't believe had children, they didn't seem to notice their children except when they were yelling at them.

The Help is one of those books that once I started to read, I just didn't want to put it down. She did a great job with character development and story telling. It really has me excited to see the next book that Kathryn Stockett writes. I definitely will plan to read it.

You can read more about the book, the author and even read an excerpt on Kathryn Stockett's website.

So, now that I am back from my mini-vacation and have finished the book, I do hope to get back to some posting. I didn't menu plan this week and it is proving a bit of a challenge - we have already had breakfast for dinner twice and it's only Wednesday! I didn't develop a CVS plan yet, but I do hope to get there this week.