The Help: Book Review

October 5, 2011

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When planning our annual fall pilgrimage to the gulf coast beaches, I began thinking that this might be the year to pack a novel for the beach. Both of the children are a little older this year and slightly more self-sufficient, so I couldn’t help but dream of some lazy afternoons under a beach umbrella with a good ol’ beach read.

When I first saw the previews for the movie The Help, they did not peek my interest in seeing the movie. The brief bits that I saw made it look like a summer “chick-flick”. Then I began hearing all of the “Oscar Award Winning” movie reviews and realized that the movie was based on a New York Times Bestseller book. That’s when I decided The Help by Kathryn Stockett would be my beach read.

I know I’m late to The Help phenomenon; however, having just returned from spending my lazy beach afternoons with this book, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give my two cents.

My addiction to books first began as I snuggled-up next to my mother reading a book to me each day before nap-time. Books have always talked to me. Books come to life for me. When I read a book, I walk right into the pages and make myself at home, laughing, crying, holding my breath, gritting my teeth . . . . And the very best books are those that allow me to make friends and enemies.

From the moment I started reading The Help, I wanted to get to know the characters better. And as I turned the pages, I quickly found myself making friends and enemies! The first character to grab hold of my heart was two-year-old “Baby Girl.” Baby Girl is not a main character, but over and over again that child put a lump in my throat and brought tears to my eyes. From the moment Baby Girl asked Aibileen, “Mae Mo been bad?” and Aibeleen answers, “No, baby, you ain’t been bad,” smoothing her hair back. “You been good. Real good.” Well, I just knew that Baby Girl had my love and Aibileen had my friendship.

By now you’ve probably already seen the plot of the book. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter and two black maids, Aibileen and Minny, take an extraordinary risk to write about the lives of black maids in the South in the 1960’s. Huddled under my beach umbrella, I couldn’t wait to read about the lives of these women. Yet, I read very leisurely, taking in all of the enjoyable dialogue and teeth-gritting events that had me laughing and crying.

I could not wait to read, read, read . . . and then, then it was all over. No! I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters. As Aibileen waits at the bus stop at the end of the story, I feel like Baby Girl crying for Aibileen to not go.

A personal note . . .

When I was 18, I took my first Florida beach vacation with my future Man of Steel and his family. During our two week visit to the gulf coast, me, My Man of Steel, my future sister in-law and her boyfriend . . . Yes, they got married too. We’re a rare bunch of happily married high school sweethearts. Any way back to the story . . .  we all drove to my mother in-law’s hometown, Talladega, Alabama. Yes, as in Ricky Bobby’s Talladega.

While in Talladega, we found ourselves on the front porch of a humble wood home visiting with Catherine and her sister. Catherine had been My Man of Steel’s grandmother’s maid. Now some may think that Texas is “the south.” South Texas may be south but it is very different from the true south. As we sat for hours on this little porch, I was overwhelmed by the love and affection these two women showered upon My Man of Steel and his sister. It was obvious they loved this family. After Man of Steel’s grandmother passed away, Catherine went on to work for another family friend. Despite this, my mother in-law continued to pay Catherine her salary until the day she passed away.

Out of the entire two week vacation, including a trip to Disney World, that visit with Catherine and her sister was the most memorable moment of my trip. As I read The Help, I thought of Catherine and wondered about the life she had lived.

Life with Jeannine

So have you read or seen the movie The Help? What are your thoughts? I understand the author has stirred-up some controversy.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anissa October 9, 2011 at 12:47 am

Loved the book and surprisingly, I even loved the movie. I usually am not a fan of book to movie adaptations. “The Diary of Southern Women” (I think that is the title) is on my to-read list. This book provided some inspiration for “The Help.”

Jeannine October 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I have heard from several people that they like the movie as much as the book (or more). That’s amazing, you never hear that. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

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