Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

“The sun is bright but my eyes is wide open. I stand at the bus stop like I been doing for forty-odd years. In thirty minutes, my whole life’s… done. Maybe I ought to keep writing, not just for the paper, but something else, about all the people I know and the things I seen and done. Maybe I ain’t too old to start over, I think and laugh and cry at the same time at this. Cause just last night I thought I was finished with everything new.”

Anger, pity, hurt, shame and some more anger in repeat. These were some of the emotions that I felt while reading “The Help“. What amazed me, even more, is that people are still differentiated on the basis of colour (even today!). It’s present all over the world and probably in different forms. Our prejudice towards something as basic as skin colour still drives the way we think and are. The author, Kathryn Stockett, has a simple yet powerful message to her reader: look at what is within someone and not on how they look. There are no protagonists according to me. There are people who have been dealt a hand that might seem too much for them. But they try to get on with life as much as they can.

The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi, around the 1960s, where a young white woman (Skeeter Phelan) decides to write a book documenting the experiences of black maids who work for white families. I saw the movie first and then read the book and as usual, the book was much better.

Though the book is written as chapters from the lives of Skeeter, Abilene and Minny, the author does not fail in giving importance to all the smaller characters as well. All through the book, you will be surprised by their behaviour. Stockett has constructed her characters only too well. They have their own redeeming qualities and they come loaded with uniqueness. The author somehow manages to convey the strong sentiments without it becoming overly emotional.

Considering the scenario of black maids talking about their white families seems improbable as it was considered very dangerous to do so. But still, the maids go ahead and share their stories, for the greater good. The story moves effortlessly and almost like it happened in real life. That maybe because Stockett was raised in Mississippi and she herself had a close relation to her maids like Skeeter does.

‘The Help’ is both piercingly emotional and humorous. The reader gets a wonderful view of how life in the 1960s was, for a black maid. This book is definitely worth a read.

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