by Kathryn Stockett
My grandmother recommended this book to my mom as one she thought I would like, so I found it wrapped up under the tree on Christmas morning. Thanks, Mom and Grandma! :)
The Help was very different from my other recent reading material, but it's a book I knew I would enjoy immediately. I love stories set in the South, especially ones that focus on women during the 60's. Unsurprisingly, The Help deals with issues of race and civil rights, but from a perspective--that of female housekeepers--that is different and refreshing.
The three women that the story focuses on--Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny--are all likable and appealing characters, and their different personalities are one of The Help's strengths. However, The Help's greatest success is the complex relationships it so intelligently portrays--the complicated social hierarchy of Mississippi during the 60's, Skeeter's white friends who are acutely aware of the lines that separate them from their African-Americans housekeepers (and vice versa), the tenderness that Aibileen feels for the many white children she has helped raise, Minny's love-hate relationship with her husband, and the frustration Skeeter feels with the expectations put upon her from the society she was raised in.
Overall, Stockett's language is quite evocative. While reading, you can practically hear the Southern twang, feel the warm summer breeze, and see lanes of oak trees covered with Spanish moss. If I liked sweet tea, I would have drank it while reading this book; instead, I spent my time dreaming about caramel cake. While the plot of The Help does take awhile to set up, I enjoyed reading it so much that I can't say I noticed at all.