In Jackson, Mississippi, three women meet and do their best to make an unforgettable mark on their town’s history. Aibileen is a black maid who in part, raises white children for a living, always leaving before the children get too old. Skeeter is a recent graduate from college, has scandalously not come home with a husband, and is determined to write but not sure how to go about doing it or even what to write about. Minny is Aibileen’s best friend and also a maid, but far too out-spoken to get an ordinary job at this stage. All these women put their lives and futures at risk so their voices can be heard; they just can’t put up with it any longer.
I was surprised by how much I loved this book. Each character is given individual sections of the novel and together they form a powerful narrative voice that is touching and significant at once. The difference between Skeeter’s life and those of Aibileen and Minny is immense and appalling, particularly how white people had blinders on and did ridiculous things like installing a second toilet just for the black servants to use. Perhaps the most affecting part of the novel, however, was the feeling between the black servants and some of the white families they served, particularly with the children. There was affection in some cases amidst the degradations and I never imagined it to be like that. That said, this is fiction and none of these women have spoken up in real life (to my knowledge) so maybe it wasn’t so, but it still made the book immensely powerful emotionally. It astounds me that all this was happening just 50-60 years ago.
This read comes highly recommended from me. The Help is a wonderful, well-paced, stunning novel from a new writer that I suspect will go far, and a brilliant beginning for a new literary imprint.
Buy The Help on Amazon.