The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Having finished listening to the audio book edition of "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett, I would have to add it to the short list of my all time favorite books. I loved it and I especially loved listening to it. This is the first novel by this author and I do not know how she will ever top herself. The book is about the relationship between White women living in the deep South in the early 1960's and their Negro domestic help. It shows a time, not all that long ago, when there was no such thing as political correctness, when Whites, especially in the South, had no problems showing their Negro help who was boss. At that time in Jackson, Mississippi, a Black woman was allowed in a White grocery store only if she was wearing her white maid's uniform. The grocery stores in the Negro section of town were not well lit, not too clean and not very well stocked. For a maid to speak out of turn was reason enough for immediate firing, if not putting herself and her family in physical danger. To characterize the racial condition of the American South in 1963 as American Apartheid, would not be an exaggeration. But, this is only the backdrop of the story. The real story is about the relationship that develops between one White woman, Skeeter and the Black maids she eventually writes a book about. Skeeter recently graduated from college with a degree in Journalism, which was all well and good, except all anyone, especially, in this case, Skeeter's mother, really expected from women who attended college in that time was to get their Mrs.degree; anything less was all but useless. Skeeter, was an exception to the rule. She was determined to be a writer and unlike her close friends, with whom she played bridge on a weekly basis and was a member of the local women's organizations, Skeeter had a sense that all was not well regarding race relations in the South. In her attempts to find something worthwhile to write about, she decides on exploring what it is like for the "colored maids" to work for the white women of Jackson, Mississippi, from the maid's point of view. And so begins the relationship that develops between her, Skeeter and two of the maids, Abilene and Minny, who work for her friends. The author, who is White, takes on the task of giving voices to the Negro maids who are interviewed for her book and those voices are believable and pitch perfect. This was the first book I have read in many years, perhaps decades, in which I felt a kinship with these main characters to the extent that I already miss them, as if they had been guests staying at my home and have now left, leaving me with a sad void. I hope that Kathryn Stockett sees fit to write a sequel to"The Help", so that her readers can know what happens to her characters in the years to come. If you are an avid reader or if you only read a few books a year, you will want to read "The Help".