“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.” – Kathryn Stockett (The Help)
“The Help” Review
This post may contain spoilers.
Stockett’s novel “The Help” allows us to dive into the minds of three women in Jackson, Mississippi, starting in the summer of 1962. Aibileen is raising her seventeenth white child and goes about her work with the patience of a saint, keeping calm and holding her tongue. Her friend Minny has no problem talking back to her employers to the point where it is difficult to keep a job. Skeeter is an ambitious, educated white woman who wants to be known as a writer rather than just as a socialite.
Together these three — along with several other colored maids — work together to start a secret project, a tell-all book that describes what it’s like to work as a colored maid. Originally Skeeter wished to start the project to get her name out there as a writer, to take a chance at becoming an author. Aibileen and Minny wish to just get their thoughts down, daring to hope that their situations become better by telling these stories.
The stories about the maids’ white employers range from good to bad. There are touching moments — such as a white woman cooking for her maid when the maid’s grandson was beaten and blinded — and not so great memories, like crooked systems wrongly throwing maids in jail for stealing. Despite the anonymity of the book, it is still found out as to who wrote it and I was holding my breath as I read each chapter, sharing the hope with the characters that everything will turn out alright in the end.
Reading the book, I related much with Skeeter, a young woman who was trying to figure out what to do with her life. The book was a pet project, something to catapult her into the world of writing, but she learned much about herself, about people, just by actually sitting down and listening to these maids. The book changed from something selfish to something that could potentially impact the way people think.
Colored folks were thanking Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter for allowing the world to hear their voices. White woman were pausing to think about how they treated their help. Some maids were fired for suspicion, others were thanked for their support for all their years of work. That book impacted so many lives with just words, and the stark difference in characters from before and after Skeeter’s and the maids’ book was published shows it.
My favorite lesson from this story is what everyone needs to tell themselves, to tell each other, every once in a while: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” It doesn’t matter where you come from, where you’re going, what you’ve been through in life, or what life will throw your way in the coming years. Everyone is a person and everyone deserves to be recognized and loved.
“The Help” gets a 5 out of 5 stars.