Sep 4, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I let all my breath out. I like Miss Skeeter, but come on. Sure, a phone call would a been nice. She never would a just shown up on some white lady's step without calling. But no, she done plopped herself down like she got ever right to barge in on me at home.

"I want to interview you. About what it's like to work as a maid. To really show what it's like to be a maid in Jackson." I look around. We out here in the wide open. Don't she know how dangerous this could be, talking about this while the whole world can see us? "Exactly what kind a stories you think you gone hear?" She looks excited, like this is some kind a game. For a second, I think I might be more mad than I am tired. "Miss Skeeter," I whisper, "do that not sound kind a dangerous to you?" I just stare at her. Is she crazy? "Did you hear about the colored boy this morning? One they beat with a tire iron for accidentally using the white bathroom?"

And thus begins Aibileen and Miss Skeeter's venture to write a book about the life of a black woman in Mississippi in the early '60s. Miss Skeeter's a young woman just returned to Jackson after getting a head full of ideas and high hopes from 4 years at Ole Miss. A young woman who sees black woman her own age being snubbed and mistreated. A young woman who sees politicians and high society embrace segregation as a normal part of life, doggedly determined not to lose it.

I almost put the book down within the first paragraph because of the dialogue, because several chapters are written in the voice of a black mammy from 1962. I don't read books written in character voice. Whether it's a Redneck character, a ghetto rapper, a mafia thug or a southern plantation mistress, I still want the words written in today's English. Proper spelling, proper enunciation, articulate. But this one captured me. The voices elicited sentiment. They were authentic and not forced.
I am so glad I kept reading. The characters are vivid and reveal nuances of that period of American history that have often been minimized. I wallowed in this book.
The Help is Kathryn Stockett's first novel. It was personal and dear to her heart, reflective of her Mississippi background. I'm hoping there will be a second novel.

1 comment:

~Connie said...

The movie was just as good as your review ... and I look forward to reading the book!