Have you read Kathryn Stockett's The Help? If not, it's the perfect time to do so. Why? Because the film adaptation of the bestselling novel hits theaters this August. And you won't know what's done right, wrong or altogether different if you haven't read the book first.
I read Ms. Stockett's book shortly after it was released back in February of 2009. I'll admit, I was hesitant to do so at first because I didn't want to be disappointed. Ms. Stockett was a white woman writing black characters in a time period (pre-Civil Rights Movement) often romanticized by white authors. Gone With the Wind, anybody? Anyway, I tamped down my doubts, drank a tall glass of optimism and read Ms. Stockett's novel. I'm so glad I did.
The Help was a marvelous surprise. The storyline was well-developed and characters richly drawn. I especially enjoyed the chapters written in the voice of "Abileen" and "Minny," the two black maids whose experiences and stories formed the basis of the fictitious tell-all book in The Help.
Although well-crafted, The Help was not without its flaws. For me, the biggest one was the vernacular used for the story's Southern black characters. It was completely wrong and made reading the book difficult at times. I often wondered who proofread and authenticated these sections. It couldn't have been a black woman, I often told myself. At least not a black woman with Southern relatives (which is 99% of us - LOL!).
Here's a quick synopsis of the book (Source):
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
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.
Here's the trailer for the movie: