Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-- mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
The Help is now a major motion picture.
A part of the 50 Reader Store Essentials list.
What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing "about what disturbs you." The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies--and mistrusts--enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Showing 31-40 of the 152 most recent reviews
31 . The Author didn't Interview Anyone!
Posted April 28, 2011 by Wingrider54 , Grand Rapids, MN 55744I read this book with some interest, but a bit of skepticism. There were things that seemed out of place and just invented. Would it seem out of place for a southern African -American woman who worked as a maid for the elite, white women, to do some of the things that at least one of these woman did?
After reading about the author at the end, I found out that the character "Skeeter" was probably a better version of the author. I found out that the author grew up with an African-American house servant. I also found out that the rest was all in her own mind......she did not interview these woman. She had no idea of who they were or how they felt, other than her own imaginings. This invalidates the book. I thought how sad that the author couldn't have made her book a valid situation of the African American servant (maids) in the deep south during the time the book was written. Kathryn Stocker made a possibly great book into a so-so impossible book. She even says that this is just the way it was.....so sad!
32 . Could not put it down!!!
Posted April 28, 2011 by BJ , New BraunfelsWhat a great and rewarding book that depicts the lives of Southern Women and the roles they play in their community. It was a delight to read and well written with humor and insight. Loved this book!
33 . A Great Read!!!!
Posted April 07, 2011 by Corinne Hernandez , Glendale, CAI loved this book! All the characters in the book where interesting. This is a great story about a time when so much change was going on in our country. I like the way the author weaves her story with actual events that took place during that time.
34 . Great bedtime read
Posted March 13, 2011 by Alaska Reader , AlaskaI thoroughly enjoyed this read. At times an interesting page turner which kept me reading long after the light should have been turned out. Also a great read to take along on a long airplane flight. What was also interesting, is that the author experienced some of the actual happenings in Mississippi during the racial unrest herself. A great look into what was.
35 . What a great read.
Posted February 25, 2011 by Linda , BarrieI grew up in the Canadian north not ever seeing a black person until my early 20's. The blacks are an amazing people with great minds. They went without recognition for so many years. I loved the diary type feelings of the 'maids' of the whites.... of not so long ago. This was an easy read with lots of feeling for all people. I will re read this amazing book.
36 . LOVED it!
Posted February 24, 2011 by USNwife07 , small townThis book had me crying, laughing, and always wanting to read more! One of the best books I've read in a long time.
37 . oh my gosh...mad for this book!!
Posted February 16, 2011 by elle , ALI'm an avid reader & this was one of the most well-written, honest, page-turning books I've had the privilege of reading! the book sucked me in & didn't spit me out till the very end!! the author has a first-hand knowledge of the sad segregation the South experienced, so to say she 'nailed it' would be an gross understatement. she questions this about herself too but one of her favorite quotes(& mine) in the book...'We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought.' so, in other words~read this book! :)
38 . Good Story
Posted February 15, 2011 by Carolyn , Tuolumne, CAThis was a great story. I little hard to read at the beginning, due to the difference in dialect, but once I got it down, it was a good story about how people treated each other in the 60s and how it was viewed.
39 . Loved it!
Posted February 13, 2011 by Yadira , San DiegoCharacters are very endearing and the stories open up such a world that hasn't been thought of in so long. I couldn't put this book down. It took me 4 days of reading (have 2 kids) but finally finished today and it was so worth it
40 . Great Read
Posted February 06, 2011 by Mary Ann , BostonWhat a great writer! Story flows and you can't put it down. Sad, but true and exciting to see what happens with all the characters. I highly recommend it.
February 10, 2009
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Excerpt from The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Two days later, I sit in my parent's kitchen, waiting for dusk to fall. I give in and light another cigarette even though last night the surgeon general came on the television set and shook his finger at everybody, trying to convince us that smoking will kill us. But Mother once told me tongue kissing would turn me blind and I'm starting to think it's all just a big plot between the surgeon general and Mother to make sure no one ever has any fun.
At eight o'clock that same night, I'm stumbling down Aibileen's street as discreetly as one can carrying a fifty-pound Corona typewriter. I knock softly, already dying for another cigarette to calm my nerves. Aibileen answers and I slip inside. She's wearing the same green dress and stiff black shoes as last time.
I try to smile, like I'm confident it will work this time, despite the idea she explained over the phone. "Could we...sit in the kitchen this time?" I ask. "Would you mind?"
"Alright. Ain't nothing to look at, but come on back."
The kitchen is about half the size of the living room and warmer. It smells like tea and lemons. The black-and-white linoleum floor has been scrubbed thin. There's just enough counter for the china tea set. I set the typewriter on a scratched red table under the window. Aibileen starts to pour the hot water into the teapot.
"Oh, none for me, thanks," I say and reach in my bag. "I brought us some Co-Colas if you want one." I've tried to come up with ways to make Aibileen more comfortable. Number One: Don't make Aibileen feel like she has to serve me.
"Well, ain't that nice. I usually don't take my tea till later anyway." She brings over an opener and two glasses. I drink mine straight from the bottle and seeing this, she pushes the glasses aside, does the same.
I called Aibileen after Elizabeth gave me the note, and listened hopefully as Aibileen told me her idea--for her to write her own words down and then show me what she's written. I tried to act excited. But I know I'll have to rewrite everything she's written, wasting even more time. I thought it might make it easier if she could see it in type-face instead of me reading it and telling her it can't work this way.
We smile at each other. I take a sip of my Coke, smooth my blouse. "So..." I say.
Aibileen has a wire-ringed notebook in front of her. "Want me to...just go head and read?"
"Sure," I say.
We both take deep breaths and she begins reading in a slow, steady voice.
"My first white baby to ever look after was named Alton Carrington Speers. It was 1924 and I'd just turned fifteen years old. Alton was a long, skinny baby with hair fine as silk on a corn..."
I begin typing as she reads, her words rhythmic, pronounced more clearly than her usual talk. "Every window in that filthy house was painted shut on the inside, even though the house was big with a wide green lawn. I knew the air was bad, felt sick myself..."
"Hang on," I say. I've typed wide greem. I blow on the typing fluid, retype it. "Okay, go ahead."
"When the mama died, six months later," she reads, "of the lung disease, they kept me on to raise Alton until they moved away to Memphis. I loved that baby and he loved me and that's when I knew I was good at making children feel proud of themselves..."
I hadn't wanted to insult Aibileen when she told me her idea. I tried to urge her out of it, over the phone. "Writing isn't that easy. And you wouldn't have time for this anyway, Aibileen, not with a full-time job."
"Can't be much different than writing my prayers every night."
It was the first interesting thing she'd told me about herself since we'd started the project, so I'd grabbed the shopping pad in the pantry. "You don't say your prayers, then?"
"I never told nobody that before. Not even Minny. Find I can get my point across a lot better writing em down."
"So this is what you do on the weekends?" I asked. "In your spare time?" I liked the idea of capturing her life outside of work, when she wasn't under the eye of Elizabeth Leefolt.
"Oh no, I write a hour, sometimes two ever day. Lot a ailing, sick peoples in this town."
I was impressed. That was more than I wrote on some days. I told her we'd try it just to get the project going again.
Aibileen takes a breath, a swallow of Coke, and reads on.
She backtracks to her first job at thirteen, cleaning the Francis the First silver service at the governor's mansion. She reads how on her first morning, she made a mistake on the chart where you filled in the number of pieces so they'd know you hadn't stolen anything.
"I come home that morning, after I been fired, and stood outside my house with my new work shoes on. The shoes my mama paid a month's worth a light bill for. I guess that's when I understood what shame was and the color of it too. Shame ain't black, like dirt, like I always thought it was. Shame be the color of a new white uniform your mother ironed all night to pay for, white without a smudge or a speck a work-dirt on it."
Aibileen looks up to see what I think. I stop typing. I'd expected the stories to be sweet, glossy. I realize I might be getting more than I'd bargained for. She reads on.
"...so I go on and get the chiffarobe straightened out and before I know it, that little white boy done cut his fingers clean off in that window fan I asked her to take out ten times. I never seen that much red come out a person and I grab the boy, I grab them four fingers. Tote him to the colored hospital cause I didn't know where the white one was. But when I got there, a colored man stop me and say, Is this boy white?" The typewriter keys are clacking like hail on a roof. Aibileen is reading faster and I am ignoring my mistakes, stopping her only to put in another page. Every eight seconds, I fling the carriage aside.
"And I says Yessuh, and he say, Is them his white fingers? And I say, Yessuh, and he say, Well you better tell them he your high yellow cause that colored doctor won't operate on a white boy in a Negro hospital. And then a white policeman grab me and he say, Now you look a here--"
She stops. Looks up. The clacking ceases.
"What? The policeman said look a here what?"
"Well, that's all I put down. Had to catch the bus for work this morning."
I hit the return and the typewriter dings. Aibileen and I look each other straight in the eye. I think this might actually work.
Every other night for the next two weeks, I tell Mother I'm off to feed the hungry at the Canton Presbyterian Church, where we, fortunately, know not a soul. Of course she'd rather I go down to the First Presbyterian, but Mother's not one to argue with Christian works and she nods approvingly, tells me on the side to make sure I wash my hands thoroughly with soap afterward.
Hour after hour, in Aibileen's kitchen, she reads her writing and I type, the details thickening, the babies' faces sliding into focus. At first, I'm disappointed that Aibileen is doing most of the writing, with me just editing. But if Missus Stein likes it, I'll be writing the other maids' stories and that will be more than enough work. If she likes it... I find myself saying this over and over in my head, hoping it might make it so.
Aibileen's writing is clear, honest. I tell her so.
"Well, look who I been writing to." She chuckles. "Can't lie to God."
Before I was born, she actually picked cotton for a week at Longleaf, my own family's farm. Once she lapses into talking about Constantine without my even asking.
"Law, that Constantine could sing. Like a purebred angel standing in the front a the church. Give everbody chills, listening to that silky voice a hers and when she wouldn't sing no more after she had to give her baby to--" She stops. Looks at me.
She says, "Anyway."
I tell myself not to press her. I wish I could hear everything she knows about Constantine, but I'll wait until we've finished her interviews. I don't want to put anything between us now.
"Any word from Minny yet?" I ask. "If Missus Stein likes it," I say, practically chanting the familiar words, "I just want to have the next interview set up and ready."
Aibileen shakes her head. "I asked Minny three times and she still say she ain't gone do it. I spec it's time I believed her."
I try not to show my worry. "Maybe you could ask some others? See if they're interested?" I am positive that Aibileen would have better luck convincing someone than I would.
Aibileen nods. "I got some more I can ask. But how long you think it's gone take for this lady to tell you if she like it?"
I shrug. "I don't know. If we mail it next week, maybe we'll hear from her by mid-February. But I can't say for sure." Aibileen presses her lips together, looks down at her pages. I see something that I haven't noticed before. Anticipation, a glint of excitement. I've been so wrapped up in my own self, it hasn't occurred to me that Aibileen might be as thrilled as I am that an editor in New York is going to read her story. I smile and take a deep breath, my hope growing stronger.
On our fifth session, Aibileen reads to me about the day Treelore died. She reads about how his broken body was thrown on the back of a pickup by the white foreman. "And then they dropped him off at the colored hospital. That's what the nurse told me, who was standing outside. They rolled him off the truck bed and the white men drove away." Aibileen doesn't cry, just lets a parcel of time pass while I stare at the typewriter, she at the worn black tiles.
On the sixth session, Aibileen says, "I went to work for Miss Leefolt in 1960. When Mae Mobley two weeks old," and I feel I've passed through a leaden gate of confidence. She describes the building of the garage bathroom, admits she is glad it is there now. It's easier than listening to Hilly complain about sharing a toilet with the maid. She tells me that I once commented that colored people attend too much church. That stuck with her. I cringe, wondering what else I've said, never suspecting the help was listening or cared.
One night she says, "I was thinking..." But then she stops.
I look up from the typewriter, wait. It took Aibileen vomiting on herself for me to learn to let her take her time.
"I's thinking I ought to do some reading. Might help me with my own writing."
"Go down to the State Street Library. They have a whole room full of Southern writers. Faulkner, Eudora Welty--"
Aibileen gives me a dry cough. "You know colored folks ain't allowed in that library."
I sit there a second, feeling stupid. "I can't believe I forgot that." The colored library must be pretty bad. There was a sit-in at the white library a few years ago and it made the papers. When the colored crowd showed up for the sit-in trial, the police department simply stepped back and turned the German shepherds loose. I look at Aibileen and am reminded, once again, the risk she's taking talking to me. "I'll be glad to pick the books up for you," I say.
Aibileen hurries to the bedroom and comes back with a list. "I better mark the ones I want first. I been on the waiting list for To Kill a Mockingbird at the Carver Library near bout three months now. Less see..."
I watch as she puts checkmarks next to the books: The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois, poems by Emily Dickinson (any), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
"I read some a that back in school, but I didn't get to finish." She keeps marking, stopping to think which one she wants next.
"You want a book by...Sigmund Freud?"
"Oh, people crazy." She nods. "I love reading about how the head work. You ever dream you fall in a lake? He say you dreaming about your own self being born. Miss Frances, who I work for in 1957, she had all them books."
On her twelfth title, I have to know. "Aibileen, how long have you been wanting to ask me this? If I'd check these books out for you?"
"A while." She shrugs. "I guess I's afraid to mention it."
"Did you...think I'd say no?"
"These is white rules. I don't know which ones you following and which ones you ain't."
We look at each other a second. "I'm tired of the rules," I say.
Aibileen chuckles and looks out the window. I realize how thin this revelation must sound to her.