2,930 of 3,099 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book in Years! An Instant Classic!
The Help is about a young white woman in the early 1960s in Mississippi who becomes interested in the plight of the black ladies' maids that every family has working for them. She writes their stories about mistreatment, abuse and heartbreaks of working in white families' homes, all just before the Civil Rights revolution. That is the story in a nutshell - but it is so...
Published on January 28, 2009 by JK8
1,011 of 1,122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining - evokes the South at a point in time
Having grown up in the South with "help" until I left home, I identified with many things in this book. Stockett has done a marvelous job of evoking time and place, from the food to the weather to of course the dialect.
I would have liked to have seen characters that were a bit more multi-dimensional. The maids depicted here were for the most part without...
Published on April 22, 2009 by Goldengate
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2,930 of 3,099 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book in Years! An Instant Classic!,
This is the best book I have read in years! I can't recommend it enough! It is fabulous and I think they will make a movie out of it. I would compare it to the writings of Carson McCullers, Harper Lee, Truman Capote and even Margaret Mitchell. The story grabs you and doesn't let you go. You can smell the melted tar on the Mississippi roads, the toil in the cotton fields, the grits burning on the stove. The theme is the indomitable will of human beings to survive against all odds - because of the color of their skin. It is a heart-wrenching account and you will never fondly remember the times of the Jim Crow laws (if you ever did). The pure, down and out bitchery of the white ladies who become dissatisfied with their maids and proceed to ruin their lives is portrayed vividly. The desperation of the maids' circumstances is truly touching. I have laughed and cried my way through this book and plan to re-read it. I highly recommend this book because it is going to be talked about as the best book of the year.
1,381 of 1,459 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Classic for America,
These stories of the black maids working for white women in the state of Mississippi of the 60s have an insiders' view of child-rearing, Junior League benefits, town gossip, and race relations.
Hilly is the town's white Queen Bee with an antebellum attitude towards race. She hopes to lead her minions into the latter part of the century with the "enlightened" view of making sure every home in Jackson, Mississippi, has a separate toilet for the help. Her crusade is, she says, based on clear hygienic criteria, which will save both blacks and whites from heinous diseases.
Despite the fact that the maids prepare the food, care for the children, and clean every part of every home, privy to every secret, many of the white women look at their black maids as an alien race. There are more enlightened views, especially those of Skeeter, a white, single woman with a college degree, who aspires to more than earning her MRS. Skeeter begins collecting the maids' stories. And the maids themselves find the issue of race humiliating, infuriating, life-controlling. Race sows bitter seeds in the dignity of women who feel they have no choices except to follow their mamas into the white women's kitchens and laundries. Aibilene says, "I just want things to be better for the kids." Their hopes lie in education and improvement, change someday for their children.
There is real danger for the maids sharing their stories as well as danger for Skeeter herself. The death of Medgar Evers touches the women deeply, making them question their work and a decision to forge ahead, hoping their book can be published anonymously and yet not recognized by the very white women they know to the last deviled egg and crack in a dining room table.
The relationships between the maids and the white children, the maids and some kind employers, including "white trash" Cecilia Foot, illuminate the strange history of the South. The love Aibileen shows for Mae Mobley matches the love Skeeter felt as a white child from her maid-nanny Constantine.
There is never a dull moment in this long book. It is compulsively readable while teaching strong truths about the way the United States evolved from a shameful undercurrent of persistent racism to the hopes and dreams of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Ultimately, will the next generations children learn (and be taught) that skin color is nothing more than a wrapping for the person who lives within?
725 of 787 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a treasure of a book,
216 of 232 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I could give more than five!!,
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I grew up in the South in the 60's and my whole neighborhood had housekeepers or "Help". We had someone who worked for us, we called her Nursey, and she was my friend, and my caretaker. After my parents got divorced, she was my rock. This is way to personal, but my stepmother was a witch, and when I think what Nursey had to put up with to stay with me and my sisters, to help take care of us, I just don't know how to express it. She did not leave because of us kids. This book gave me so much to think about and brought up so many feelings, so many good, and so so many not so good.
I'm grateful when I think about the last conversation I had with Nursey before she died, I was married already, living out of town, and I talked to her on the phone. I was able to tell her I loved her and to say thanks for everything she did for me. Was it enough, did it matter? Who knows, but I'm glad it was said.
This is such a beautifully written book, so absorbing..and I don't know how else to describe it. But I do want to say thanks to Ms. Stockett for this wonderful book, that even though I closed it the other day, I cannot quit thinking about.
By the way, I read this on Kindle, and I have decided to buy a hardback copy as well to put on my bookshelves with all my other favorites. I find it hard to believe this is her debut work, I look forward to whatever else Ms. Stockett has to offer us, she is a wonderful storyteller.
1,011 of 1,122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining - evokes the South at a point in time,
I would have liked to have seen characters that were a bit more multi-dimensional. The maids depicted here were for the most part without failing, their white female employers almost universally despicable. As a male reader, I couldn't help but notice that the few men depicted were pretty miserable people, from the stereotypical wife-beating husband of Minny to the mostly one-dimensional husbands. The one standout was the senator, who was an entertaining character that leapt off the pages and added some variety. I think the book would have benefited from a bit more editing - I enjoyed the first 2/3 very much but then began to find it tiresome as the inevitable unfolded.
I also think that Skeeter's on-again off-again romance lacked depth - and wrapped up too abruptly. (Maybe that was edited out? haha)
Having said the above, I did enjoy "The Help" and would recommend it to others. It was a good first book for an author but leaves me wanting more from someone a bit more seasoned in building characters and handing multiple plot-lines.
116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Be a Favorite of Mine for Years to Come,
The story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. It is a story about the lives of black maids and the white women who employ them. It is also a story filled with hope, about (3) remarkable women set in difficult times. The voices are perfect pitch and even though the story deals with a serious topic, there is much humor for the reader to enjoy, and lessons to be learned by all.
We meet Eugenia Phelan (AKA ...Skeeter) who just graduated from Ole Miss College. Skeeter is back home living with her parents and she is bored with her friends. Her dream is to become a writer, and to move to New York City, but for now she is stuck in Jackson writing for the Junior League's Newsletter. Her mother, however, has other dreams for Skeeter: to find her a rich husband from a good Southern family. Skeeter is tall, a bit socially awkward, but she is very sensitive. Realizing how badly the black maids "The Help" are being treated by their white employers, she comes up with an idea to interview and write about the black maids in Jackson, and their relationships with their white employers. This is a dangerous project that must be kept secret, but one that has the potential of changing the lives of so many people. To Skeeter it is worth the risk, and it just may be her ticket out of Jackson and off to New York City if she succeeds. Abilene and Minny are the focus of the interviews although many more maids agree to participate.
Abilene is a 50 something black maid. She has endured many hardships including the death of her son in a tragic accident. Despite this she remains kind, sweet and dedicated to raising the children of her employers. Although she endures much discrimination, she tries not to judge people, and to remain loyal and kind to her employer, their family and their friends.
Minny is another black maid who has had many jobs. She is angry and bitter and she finds it hard to keep quiet about some of the discrimination she has seen. Minny cannot seem to follow her mother's advice: (7) rules which she preached to her, and that can pretty much can be summed up by saying "keep your mouth shut when it comes to white folks business".
I don't want to say too much more, but to say that this is one of those books that will make you sad when you have turned the final page. The characters and story will live on in your memory long after you've finished this book. I found myself putting sticky notes throughout so I could reread certain parts.
I found it interesting that this story in part was inspired by the author's own life growing up in Mississippi. Her family had a black maid named Demetrie. The maid died when the author was 16, and she never got to ask her how she felt about being black and working for a white family in Mississippi.
This book is highly recommended.
368 of 406 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't say enough good things about this book,
PARENTS AND TEACHERS: Mild, infrequent swearing, painful race issues/gross injustice, oblique/slang references to sex, references to domestic violence, a graphic miscarriage scene, and one short scene in which a crazy white man exposes himself to a maid and her employer.
130 of 140 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly good first novel, but I found the ending disappointing.,
As a writer, I was impressed and envious that a first novel could be SO good.
As a reader, I fell in love with the voices of the book's 3 main characters--Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny--and never wanted their story to end.
As a human being, the stories of black servants and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi alternately wrenched my heart and created a bitter knot in my stomach. As a white person, the attitudes of (most of) the white characters in this story are an embarassment to me. I know it's just a novel, but I also know (even with not having lived any further south than Virginia) that these attitudes are not fiction.
The bond between Aibileen and Mae Mobley, one of the two white children she cared for, was beautifully drawn, as was Aibileen's hope for MaeMo to grow up a different kind of white woman than her mother and most other white women who inhabit the story.
The balance these characters had to dance between wanting to do something that felt RIGHT--something that mattered and might help the next generation have a better life--and the fear of doing so in that racially explosive time and place was palpable throughout much of the story.
In the last half of the book, I was reading while watching TV--something I don't think I've EVER done before--reading during commercials, reading in bed, reading on the porch...I felt that I HAD to keep reading. Until the last chapter or two, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to give this book a 5-star review. I was telling everyone I knew about it and recommending it heartily.
But then came the ending, and I found it SO unsatisfying...especially compared to how incredibly satisfying I found the rest of the book. I may be wrong, but it screamed one of two things to me--sequel or tight deadline; i.e., either things were left unfinished because there's going to be another book or she ran out of time to bring it to the complete, fulfilling and heart-gladdening ending that this amazing story deserved.
I still very much recommend the book; just perhaps not as enthusiastically as I would have 50, 100 or 400 pages ago.
Edited 08/11/11 to add that I just came from seeing the movie version of The Help and I thought it was FABULOUS! The movie's director and the book's author are friends since childhood, so I was very hopeful that he would do a good job bringing this wonderful story to the screen and, in my opinion, he has. The acting is marvelous, especially from Viola Davis (Aibileen) and Octavia Spencer (Minnie). If you loved this book, I think you'll love the movie too!
128 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Southerner Praises "The Help",
I am an African-American woman who was raised in the South and my mother's mother was "The Help" her entire life. Like the character Aibileen and other maids in the book, she lived a double identity. During the day she was "Georgia," a fixture in the home of Southern whites on Lookout Mountain, Tenn. At night she was a smart, witty mother of two girls and wife to an overworked/underpaid bricklayer. Together, they sent their two daughters to college and, like many offspring of domestic workers, those girls went on to become members of America's first post-segregation black middle class.
I grew up in Atlanta in the late 1960s and 1970s... I was educated with white kids who were in denial. They said "slaves were happy." They froze up at the mention of race and then did racists things minutes later. I recall one white "friend" at the age of 13 asking me, out of the blue, if I "had ever been N.... Knocking?" What is that, Anita? "Oh," she said, "that's when you go on Halloween around to the houses and say 'N.. Knocking! N... Knocking! and then you run!'" The memories are plentiful....
So, if you want to read an authentic story about life in the South during the early 1960s, read "The Help."
It simply speaks the truth, whether you can handle that, or not.
161 of 180 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No s***,
Not one of these women would have SAID "Eat my s***", much less baked a pie of it. They had too much dignity. They were proud of themselves and their good character. Most felt closer to God than their employers and behaved accordingly.
I was with the story until it moved into behavior peculiar to more recent decades, including the use of what used to be considered "dirty language" and an adolescent gesture of disrespect that I can't imagine any of the maids I ever knew carrying out. They couldn't have lived all those years with the Miss Hillys of the world and then reduced themselves to that level. I hurt for all the women who learned how to adapt to the pre-civil rights restrictions of their race and position and then are depicted as people who would do that. I was born in 1939, by the way, and have lived through civil rights and the world that preceded their institution.
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The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Paperback - April 5, 2011)