“Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that’s what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go to the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.”
The Help is set in Mississippi in the early 1960’s. It’s the days of no air conditioning, steamy southern weather, plantation houses, ladies leagues and colored help. And it’s also a time of civil rights marches and cross burnings and lynchings for those who dare to speak against the world of Jim Crow.
The main characters are Skeeter, a single white woman in her early twenties, who longs to be a journalist; and Aibelene and Minny – housemaids who agree to help Skeeter write a book about the lives of the colored help. These women have a lot to say about working for white families, and they risk their lives telling it. The book is full of warmth and humor and sadness and frustration. It’s everything you could want in a good book, which is probably why it has skyrocketed to the top of the bestseller list, was made into a Hollywood film, and schools are already talking about how they can add it to their curriculum.
I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since it first came out, but was forced to be patient, since it was on our book club list. It was certainly worth the wait. In fact, I couldn’t put this book down. I read it in just under three days. I applaud Ms. Stockett’s bravery in writing the voice of a southern black servant. I’m sure many authors wouldn’t have dared to do this. But Stockett, drawing from personal memory of her own beloved housekeeper, had an important story to tell. It’s one of our own American history, and I loved the fact that this book wasn’t entirely a downer. It was also funny and charming and it showed the reality of life on both sides of the color barrier.
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009