Kathryn Stockett’s The Help

February 23rd, 2010

While my husband is out of town, I’m making my way through my towering to-read pile.

The Help offers the recommended-reading-trifecta; it’s thought-provoking, witty, and surprising. Set in the deep South during the early 60’s, the book offers a glimpse into the extreme racial segregation of the time through the thoughts and observations of two black women hired as household help, and a white woman who comes to see the racial “lines” as oppressive and unfair. These women–although each facing their own difficulties and fears–all share in the risk of secretly journaling the experiences of the hired help.

Interestingly enough, Stockett has come under blame as a white woman telling a black woman’s story, complete with dialog written in a stereotypical, heavy dialect.

The last I remember of a controversy concerning dialect, the fingers were pointing at Harry Reid.

Or Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

In my opinion, After reading the book, I can only see the style as an inconsequential part of the whole, all of which points towards a valuable central theme: color is only skin deep. Or as one of the protagonist teaches her white employers’ little girl; the wrapper on a person is secondary to the candy found nestled inside.

In as much as the story delves into racial discrimination, it takes an honest look at the mistreatment and even hatred seen amongst members of like color. Stockett’s study of the white society ladies and their treatment of each other, their mothers and their club outcasts truly captures the utter ugliness of which women seem most capable. While on the other side of the city, in their own corner of the neighborhood, we’re shown the brutal beating of a black woman by her own husband. Through this tooth and nail, though, our three women trod faithfully forth, with a few hilarious acts of retaliation and rebellion.

Similar in it’s themes to The Secret Life Of Bees, but heavier on exposing the more subtle emotional abuse and discrimination of racial segregation, The Help tells a serious and important story, but rounds it out with unforgettable humor and endearing personalities.

This book offers much to like, and is in my opinion, especially relished while putting off cleaning your own home.

Eby-Envy Rating: 4.5 of 5*

*How extremely envious Eby is for not writing this book herself

1 Comment
  • Nan-Envy Rating: 6 of 5*

    *How extremely envious Nan is for actually finishing a good book. I’m somewhere in the middle of about 5 right now.

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