Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Review: The Help

"All I'm saying is, kindness don't have no boundaries"

Oh this book. I almost don't want to see the movie. How can it possibly live up to this well-written, page-turning, unfolding story of the songs of the south. I say songs of the south as though they were eloquent, full of melody and promise. If anyone knows even a sliver of history of these times, it wasn't what I would call a melody. I don't think I can find just one word now that I'm writing about it. But that means the story was so meaty that it needs several words to describe it.

This was the early 60's, before my time, yet I found myself imagining what my life would have been like if I had been alive back then, born and raised in Mississippi. I felt such anger during parts of it that I have to be honest and say, I'm glad that I wasn't. I can't, and don't want to, deny history. I can only hope that if I was any character in this book, that I would be Skeeter Phelan.

She's brave. Tenacious. She wants to (and does) write a story, basically blowing the lid off of the suffering of African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi. As I slowly read each page, I often asked myself, could I have done this? Considering the risk involved, in times where people were beaten and killed for using the "white" restrooms, or being accused of stealing pieces of silver (when they did not) and then sent to prison, Skeeter wanted to become the voice of every African-American woman that suffered. That raised white children, loving them as their own. That turned the other cheek when called "Nigra". I shook my head from almost the first page, until the very last. I hate that it was. But, I can't deny history.

I'm wondering if Kathryn Stockett received flak about attempting to tell a story from a womans point of view outside of her race. When I came to the last few pages of the book, after the proverbial "The End" of the actual story, I read how she grew up in Mississippi, with hired "Help" in her own family. Demetrie, born in Lampkin, MS in 1927. Not that I doubted Kathryns point of view in the slightest, but when I read her own personal story, I almost felt better. I realized that there was a foundation lying underneath the writing of this book. It wasn't as if she was born and raised in New York and decided one day, "Hey, I think I'll write a story about the early 60's, specifically about segregation and all that it entailed".

If you lived it, even partially, you can write about it better than those that haven't, agree?

From the lovingly maternal Aibileen (who may be my favorite character) to the tough, outspoken Minny, the various maids that painstakingly decide to help Skeeter with her journey of truth become my heroes. Every last one of them. It was all so clandestine, secretive. It had to be. I mean after all, what would people say or do if they found out a white women was meeting with black women, and stories were being told? And then typed out in print as fast as Skeeter could type them. I shudder to think.

For the last one-hundred pages or so, I found myself on edge, wondering if the book would be published, and what ramifications that publication would bring.

If you can handle the raw truth of the way it was back then, mixed with a little bit of humor, sadness, anger, fatigue, love, hope, and even audacity, I'm really hoping you buy this book and read it just like I did. Into the wee hours of the night because you can't put it down.

Because when Skeeter comes to this conclusion: “Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought.” I knew this was going on my bookshelf as a keeper.

See you soon friend,

PS You have to know that food was a large part of this story, oh the south! Your mouth-watering breakfasts made by gentle hands. Makes me want to go back to Charleston for cheese-grits and light as angel-wings biscuits!


cstinson said...

This book was a great read. Thank goodness this was before our time though these events have shaped history. Loving some grits and gravy =)

Tiffany said...

It WAS, I couldn't put it down. SO best friend, off to the south we go for a southern style breakfast! =)

Serenity said...

Well, you know me. I almost always like the movies too and sometimes, God forbid, better. In this case there was a bit of distance between my reading of the book and the movie, so the two things together (my propensity to love the movie and the fact that it had been a while) might not make me the best judge, but I was very pleased. I so love to see a great book come to life onscreen.

Tiffany said...

I totally agree Seren, I like seeing the characters come to life in some of my favorite actors/actresses. I'm convinced I need to see this one, I've heard that there are minor differences in comparison with the book. =)