When my mother referenced The Help in a conversation, I knew I had to read it. Our family is from a small county in Mississippi that seceded from the Confederacy, and even though I’m a few states to the North now, reading Mississippi literature – particularly literature about race relations in Mississippi – is irresistible to me.
Far from being the romance or chick-lit the cover art above implies, the book is a masterfully woven tale of a handful of women and ladies (note the distinction) in Jackson, Mississippi (Stockett’s hometown), overlapping tragic events like the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, and Medgar Evers. With the obvious strong undercurrents of racial tension, brutality, and fear, the novel manages to be evocative without being too smarmy.
Abileen Clark‘s poor spelling and grammar become less and less noticeable the further along you get in the book, until they blend seamlessly into the story of this devoted maid, nanny, and grieving mama whose employers are building her a “colored” bathroom so that she doesn’t spread her diseases to the family she cooks and cares for.
Abileen alternates first-person perspectives with two other primary characters in the book:
Minny is the firecracker that speaks her mind, even in the presence of her many employers.
“Miss Skeeter” is a young white woman just home from college that has discovered the absence of the family “Help” that was closer to her than her own mother. In her search to discover what happened to the woman she considered family, she begins to see the volatility of the events unfolding around her, and to begin a project to expose them for what they are- but to do this, she must have help from the very women that are most likely to be victimized for speaking out: the “Help”.