THE HELP BY KATHRYN STOCKETT
Kathryn Stockett’s first novel; “The Help” is considered one of the years best. This is the story of a young white woman,Skeeter Phelan growing up in Jackson Mississippi in the 1960’s and the black maids, Aibileen and Minny who work for white families in the town. Aibileen is the older, wiser maid who loves the children she cares for, Minny is a younger, sassier maid who has trouble keeping work and struggles to support her own five children.
I personally enjoyed this novel, I like the way it was written from the perspective of these three different women. Skeeter is a woman who grew up with a maid who she faithfully stayed in touch with while studying journalism and literature at Ole Miss. Then the letters suddenly stop.She tries to find answers when she returns from school but without avail, so she stays busy with her friends Hilly Holbrook; head socialite and Elizabeth Leefolt who jumps at Hilly’s every whim.
In the beginning of the story Minny works for Holly Holbrook and her aging mother while, Aibileen has been working for Elizabeth Holbrook . After scandal which leads to Minny being fired and having no luck finding another family to work for. A new woman, Celia Foote enters the picture who the other “proper ladies” consider no good “white trash.” Aibileen helps Minny find employment with Celia, who attempts to keep it a secret from her husband. Many different relationships get tied up and messy, Skeeter is wanting to know what happened to her old maid,Constantine as well as working on her career in journalism. She finds a position at the Jackson local paper writing advice columns on house cleaning, something she herself has no knowledge of. With permission from Elizabeth Skeeter begins asking Aibileen’s advice for her column and a slow tentative friendship develops. Which begins the enticing idea for a tell all book from the maids perspective of working for white women in Jackson Mississippi.Thus begins a life of sneaking around and betraying trusts to bring out these women’s stories.
This story exposes the “what people think” ideals of 1960’s Mississippi. Hilly Holbrook was a representation of the opinion machine and gossip mill that “mattered” in segregated life. With misplaced courtship, sass or sympathy;a step across the imaginary color barrier an entire life could be made or ruined.
A well written novel set in a historical time, “The Help” is a wonderful look at the radicals of times long ago and how far we have come. Life held hardships and fear along with grace and goodness. Stockett captures both in this complex reality and I believe shows the invisible barriers we have crossed and how much we could have together by crossing the lines.