February 28, 2014

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

All I'm saying is, kindness don't have no boundaries.
-from The Help by Kathryn Stockett

 photo 4667024_zps547f5a53.jpg
Amazon | Goodreads

After years of putting it off for one reason or another, I finally read The Help via audio book and I'm only disappointed in myself for not reading it sooner. The Help is Kathryn Stockett's fictional account of an era that can be considered a blemish on America's history. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, nearly 100 years after the abolition of slavery, black and white Americans live segregated lives, separate but definitely not equal. Inspired by her own maid, white twenty-something college graduate Skeeter Phelan takes an interest in the lives and treatment of the maids in in her town. She secretly befriends strong and stoic Aibileen, a black maid who helps Skeeter write a housekeeping column for the newspaper. When Skeeter begins to see that the differences between Aibileen and herself are insignificant compared to those created by their society, she wants to write a book about the experience of the help. But this aspiration has painful, possibly deadly, consequences if anyone were to discover how Skeeter and Aibileen are blurring the line between blacks and whites. Together they must find the courage to challenge the social ideologies that separate them and promote the kindness that will begin to break down boundaries for the future.

There is almost nothing I can say that can convey the power in this book; most anything would be an understatement. It's safe to say that everyone is familiar with America's history of slavery, segregation, and the difficulties black Americans continue to face because of racism. I have always been disgusted by the idea that people should be treated differently because of the color of their skin and find it a fundamentally wrong. However, reading The Help gave me a cold, hard dose of reality in learning just how impossible it was for free, black Americans to live alongside white Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. And yet, they persevered with the courage, faith, strength and determination illustrated through characters like Aibileen and Minny in The Help. These characters allow readers a new detailed perspective of the difficulties Americans had to experience during this time, from the black Americans living in poverty to the white Americans who wanted to help them.

This book very eagerly but simply explores the concept of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to civil rights. Through the narratives of Aibileen, Skeeter and Minny the reader not only explores right and wrong and the courage to change it, but also the courage it takes to trust someone of a different race. Skeeter must challenge everything white society has taught her about black people being different from her. For Aibileen and Minny to trust Skeeter might mean deadly consequences if she lives up to what they've come to expect of white people. And yet, these brave women navigate their friendships despite what society tells them is "right" and "wrong", drawing enough courage from each other to challenge the status quo.
While The Help reflects mainly on racial segregation, it is also a narrative of boundaries society builds in other ways. I enjoyed how Stockett explores the segregation of classes amongst white people through Celia and Hilly; the segregation of sexes through Minny and her husband; and the segregation of being married versus single with Miss Skeeter and the other married women in her community. While skin color is the most obvious and prominent form of segregation and bigotry, there are other ways walls are built between people and it's our responsibility to break down those barriers and live with kindness toward everyone. The friendship developed by Skeeter and Aibileen over the course of this book gives hope for the future, making their courage and strength worthwhile despite the consequences.

Bottom Line: This book is a must read for everyone! It makes the Civil Rights Movement personal for readers who did not live it and helps us appreciate the progress we have made while evaluating what is still left to change. 5/5 Stars

On a side note: I listened to the audio book and it was one of the most entertaining audio book productions I have ever had the pleasure of hearing! I highly recommend it! You will be talking like you're from the south in no time at all! ;)


  1. this one is one of my favorites!!!!!
    so so so so brilliant. the story, the writing. i love them. the characters, as well.

  2. I really liked this one, too! I thought it had heart and I thought it told the story so well. I love characters like Skeeter that stand up for what they believe in, and definitely Abileen and Minny who were brave enough to tell their story and keep living in the face of everything they had to go through. I'm glad you liked this one!


Thank you so much for reading my blog! If you leave a comment I will try my best to email you back directly and visit your blog, too! If I can't find a way to get back to you, check back for a reply to your comment. Thanks again and happy reading!!