First, let me say I can’t believe no one handed me a copy of this book, and said, “Stop whatever you are doing right now and read this book.” The Help by Kathryn Stockett was worth the time it took to read all 530 pages. If you’d like a synopsis, here you go.
On the Writing:
Stockett’s strongest writing trait is voice. As I was reading, it reminded of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, which is one of my favorite books of all time. She was able to move so seamlessly between the character’s personas, dialects, and desires. After a few sections, the headings are completely unnecessary because it is so obvious which character is speaking.
The next aspect of the writing that I loved was the sense of place that Stockett is able to create. I felt like I was zooming around from bridge club, to the cotton farm, to the club. Sometimes, I wanted to bust out of Jackson as much as Skeeter. I could feel the angst and fear of the 60’s in the South far more than was probably good for me.
If I was forced to choose a negative, it might be that the ending is a bit saccharin for my taste.
Stockett says in her notes, “I was scared, a lot of the time, that I was crossing a terrible line, writing in the voice of a black person” (528). I think, if anything, her ability to write this book shows how very far we’ve managed to get in 50 years. While reading, I kept thinking it’s only been 50 years; that number kept echoing around in my head, like kids playing Marco Polo. 50 years ago, like the white women in her book, she wouldn’t have known nearly enough about the life of a black maid to write this book.
While I know this book is a work of fiction, the way the maids were treated is true. I cringe at the thought that a black person would be punished for accidentally touching a white person while serving them. This book somehow manages to highlight all the wonderful changes that have occurred, while holding a laser point on the things that haven’t. As someone who is both black and white, I often felt like I was getting punched in the stomach while reading, and I say that in the most affectionate way possible. A good book should make you feel and this one does.
I’m going to give someone my copy of this book. Leave a comment with the title of a book that has affected you. I’ll randomly choose a winner on Saturday, 7/16. Considering how many people read this blog, your odds are particularly good to win.