Hello. My name is Caitlin Orr and I’ll be your new reviewer of books from now on. It sounds so official to “review” books: I’d prefer to think of it as “playing” with books or “discovering” stories. So, yes, I can be your explorer. I have roughly 3 ‘rules’ governing how I read:
- If I’ve read more than 30 pages of a book, I have to finish it. Even if it’s tedious, dragging, and in one case, almost 500 pages long, long, long.
- I won’t start a new book on the same day I’ve finished another one. I think of dreaming on a book as a form of respect for the novel.
- I don’t let my feet touch the ground while I’m reading. I think I’ve convinced myself it is part of the escapism.
Now onwards towards this month’s review.
This book came highly recommended to me by two different women with little in common, especially book taste. Surprised, I wondered what kind of story would please both of these friends and inspire them to insist I read it. And now, after reading it, I am here to recommend The Help to everyone, with the same enthusiasm with which it was suggested to me.
Kathryn Stockett is a new author and her first book definitely has a point of view. The Help is an intricate novel that chronicles the lives of three very distinct women: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, Aibileen, and Minny. The novel sets us in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s amid the tensions of racism, specifically that of black maids working for white families in the south.
Skeeter is a young white woman in her early twenties who comes home from college with the desire to be a writer, but is lacking inspiration. She was raised by her family’s maid Constance, but returns to find that Constance has left, but no one will tell her why.
Aibileen is an elderly black maid who is helping to raise the little daughter of her new employer. She is wise, poised, and experienced, having raised 17 white children over the course of her career.
Minny, an extremely sassy woman and Aibeleen’s best friend, has a running mouth and has just lost herself another job. She offers constant comic relief and fierceness that makes you hope, if you ever were to meet her, that she didn’t take an immediate disliking to you.
The Help is a book centered around a book. Skeeter, naïve but passionate, gets inspired to write a book about black maids working for white families in the south. It’s a risky proposal, given the circumstances of Mississippi in the 60’s. Any maid who participates runs the risk of being discovered and would suffer the consequences if caught. You wonder if anyone will be brave enough to help her and simultaneously wondering if Skeeter herself is brave enough to commit to what she’s started. As a reader you are given humanity at its most beautiful, and at its worst. It reminds you what humans are capable of doing out of hatred, fear, and love.
There is the common check list of attributes in this book, too. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you angry and it makes you happy; most importantly, it makes you believe it. There were times where I swear I’d only been reading 10 minutes, but I’d have 50 pages behind me. I never put my feet down, not once.
If you want to celebrate how enticing a novel can be, find Kathryn Stockett’s book The Help, as it will help you in more ways than you know.