Saturday, December 3, 2011
A Very Enjoyable Story
I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time. I understand that it has been criticized on several levels but keep in mind that it is FICTION. The movie also comes out on DVD next Tuesday. I will be watching it.
I hope some of you will try this book. I expect you to enjoy it as much as I did!
The Help is set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi and told mainly from the perspective of three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen is an African-American maid who cleans houses and cares for the young children of various white families. Her first job since her own 24-year-old son was killed on his job, is caring for toddler Mae Mobley Leefolt. Minny is Aibileen's confrontational friend who frequently tells her employers what she thinks of them. Her actions have led to her being fired from 19 jobs. Minny's most recent employer was Mrs. Walters, mother of Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is the social leader of the community, and head of the Junior League. She is the nemesis of all three main characters.
Miss Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is the daughter of a prominent white family whose cotton farm employs many African-Americans in the fields, as well as in the household. Skeeter has just finished college and comes home with big dreams of becoming a writer; her mother's big dream for her is to get her married, although Skeeter is not interested. What does interest her is that Constantine, the maid who raised her, is nowhere to be found: Skeeter's family tells her that Constantine abruptly quit and went to live with relatives in Chicago. Constantine had been writing to Skeeter the whole time she was away at college and the most recent letter had promised her a surprise upon her homecoming. Skeeter does not consider Constantine's unexplained absence a good surprise and wonders what happened, but nobody will discuss Constantine.
This discussion awakens Skeeter to the realization that her friends' maids are treated very differently from how white people are treated. She decides that she wants to reveal the truth to the world from the maids' perspectives by writing a book about it. Written in the first person from the perspective of Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter, the struggles Skeeter experiences to communicate with the maids and gain their trust is revealed, as well as the issues of overcoming long-standing barriers in customs and laws by all of the characters. The daily lives of Southern homemakers and their maids during the early 1960s in Mississippi are explored. The dangers of undertaking writing a book about African-Americans speaking out in the South during the early '60s hover constantly over the three women.