The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Oh hey y’all – how have the last 10 days been treating you? They’ve been a little mean to me and I’d like to tell them to knock it off, thankyouverymuch. I had a head cold start at the beginning of last week and for a cold, it was a nasty little bug – knocked me down in one day from Fully Functioning Being With A Tiny Sniffle to Curled Up On Couch-Not Sure If It Was Me Or The Dog That Fed The Kids. And Tom was gone for most of it so what energy I had was reserved for taking care of the kids (I was the one that fed them – come on – the dog can’t reach the peanut butter – note to self: put peanut butter on lower shelf) and not for creating or even reading blogs. I did however surf a lot of Pinterest – that requires minimal brain function – pretty shoes (re-pin), yummy food (re-pin), yummy Adam Levine (re-pin), etc. And here I had a Currently Reading post waiting to be written because what? I read a book – IN 6 DAYS. New since-I-had-kids record. Seriously. How did I read The Help (which is over 500 pages long) in 6 days? I devoted every single second of free-time to it. No knitting, no TV, no Pinterest (okay – maybe a little Pinterest) – just reading. WHY did I read it in 6 days? Beth.
No one who reads my blog should be surprised that I got an e-mail one day from Beth saying we should try something new. Beth loves trying new things. I do not. This time it was book club. They were reading The Help and we had 2 weeks to do it – want to go? Um. No. I actually love the idea of book club but hi – slow reader! – and I like picking my own books. If I were a faster reader and could squeeze in even two books a month, I could see going. Beth doesn’t really always take the first no you give her though, and through a lure of beer (the club is held at an Irish pub in downtown Harrisburg) and the solution of watching the movie, she convinced me. After all, time with Beth is a good time so why not? Except then after a few days, when I received my Netflix copy of The Help – I looked at it, thought about watching it instead of reading it, and it just felt wrong. Like I was cheating on a High School paper by getting the Cliff’s Notes. So I put in a request at our library for a copy and put the movie aside as back-up.
I have to give a bit of a shout-out to Tom for being supportive in this read-all-the-time venture. I’m not the best cleaning lady anyway, but during those six days I didn’t touch a broom or a vacuum, and only one emergency load of laundry was done. It probably helped that at least at night, he had an interesting book he wanted to read as well because instead of our usual TV ritual, we would both pull out our books and settle in for the night. And it worked. I finished the afternoon before book club.
I realize at this point, this post is not really about the book and more about the Miracle of reading it in a reasonable time period but that’s the way these blog things go sometimes. The book is set in Jackson Missisipi, in the early 1960’s. Right in the heart of the civil rights movement. Skeeter, a young white woman, has returned from college and wants to become a writer. Through the advice of an editor in New York City, who counsels her to write about something that bothers her – something new, she decides to write about the black maids in her town and the white women they work for – all from the view of the maids.
The book is narrated by Skeeter and two maids. Aibileen, a loving and kind maid who cherishes her time with each child and does her best to instill values of hope and kindness in them, despite seeing them grow up in to their parents over and over – and Minny, a sass-talking fireball that manages to get herself fired, and due to her legendary cooking, re-hired often.
I was surprised at how emotional I got reading this book. It is heartbreaking – so much so because you know despite this being a work of fiction that these people existed. These stories existed. There were times when I felt sick from the hatred expressed, there were times I cried from the treatment of the maids, or of the children by their own disinterested parents, and there were a lot of times I laughed out loud. The characters were all so real. You could as easily love Aibileen as hate Hilly for the people they were. And in the end, it was about hope and the persistence of change – a force that changes civilizations.
I loved the book and would highly recommend it to anyone. I believe it’s an important story and from the animated discussions we held in book club, it definitely gets people talking and thinking. This seems to be a natural fit to slide in to high school curriculum, and whether it does or not, I will be buying my own copy to hand down to my children some day.
As far as book club goes – I loved it. Beer, books, and Beth. All good things. The group was large and fun and I’m glad she nudged me to go. The next time I see a book on their itinerary that looks interesting, I will be happy to grab a copy and pull up a stool, beer in hand, ready to discuss.
Next up: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson