Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book Review: The Help

My favorite part of the holidays: getting to read any book you want without feeling guilty that you should be reading something more work-related. Today I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and I was very sorry to have finished it so quickly.

When I first picked it up I thought it was a true story, so when I realized that it was a work of fiction, beginning with sentences like "Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and the cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime." and seeing it was written by a white woman, I admit I raised an eyebrow. Initially it can come off as a little naive, not so much so as to be offensive, but I worried it was one of those books that tried to cover up its one-dimensionality by writing in bad grammar, as if that would make up for not having a clue how to tackle such a completely different perspective as an African American maid in 1960s Mississippi. Still I didn't bring other books with me so I gave it a chance, and I realized that my initial reaction was unfounded.

The book is quickly peppered with brief, insightful sentences that kept me reading. Once the rich white character is introduced and the story begins to unfold, I realize that I hadn't understood what the book was about at all. Initially it had seemed as though the book was one big "I get it you know. I'm rich, I'm white, I'm from Jackson but my eyes have been opened so I totally get what it's like to be a black servant in the South". Quickly, it seems to turn into a nice fictional story in an unusual setting, something to keep you company on the plane but nothing you'll be writing home about. However it becomes so much more than that. The book is about truth, about strength, about courage and, to the author (at least it seems to me), about redemption. It's about realizing too late what you had in life, those who really loved you, and never getting a chance to thank them or letting them know how much they influenced your growth. It's about having the guts to point at the big pink elephant in the room and shout there it is, the bastard is shitting all over my brand new rug, someone do something about it. It's about having the strength to do so even though you know you will lose some friends along the way, and accepting that they never really knew you if they could dismiss you so quickly. It is a wonderful book, and I keep looking over to it, wanting to read more, hoping that some extra pages have magically added themselves to the end of it while I left it be. The characters become real, I adored them, and I could have read another two hundred pages about them and what they are doing with their lives. I'm glad I gave it a chance.

I seem to be having a great deal of luck with my book selection so far, I just hope I get to cram one more in before I have to get back to work

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