In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, everyone knew their place. Aibileen is an older black maid who works six days a week. Her favorite job is taking care of their two-year-old daughter. Minny, Aibileen's best friend, has been fired from 19 jobs because she insists on talking back. Skeeter is a single 22-year-old white woman who has graduated from Ole Miss. She wants to get into publishing and perhaps write. All her friends are now married and have babies. Skeeter plays bridge with them weekly and is the newsletter editor for the Ladies' League.
Skeeter's group of friends are part of the rising leaders of Jackson's white society. One woman, an outsider, has married one of the men from their group. She doesn't realize that she is not welcome. Aibileen is the maid for one of Skeeter's best friends. When Aibileen uses her boss' name as a reference, the woman gives Minny a job.
Maids are the help and the white women are the bosses who run their lives. But Skeeter starts to wonder. She starts talking to Aibileen, then Minny. She starts questioning "the way things are". Soon, the three women have secrets that have to be kept from their friends, both black and white. This secret could change Jackson society if they can't keep it.
Kathryn Stockett has written a powerful, poignant story. The Help is narrated by the three women - Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. It covers about two years, through Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington, Kennedy's assassination, and Medgar Evan's murder there in Jackson.
The Help studies the complex relationships between the women, the men in their lives, the racial issues of the time, the care for the children, between the blacks and their white bosses, in illness, in romance, in parent adult children connections, spousal abuse, and the way they care for each other. Stockett hits the right tones for the narratives - each woman telling the lives they face. Their interactions build tentatively, then to a powerful trust. When Skeeter first approaches Aibileen with her questions, Aibileen backs away. She has no reason to trust any white woman. Aibileen is the one who brings Minny into Skeeter's life. At the end of The Help, none of the three women could not have predicted where they were two years later.
While The Help is centered around the women's stories, men are not ignored. One character I feel sorry for is Stuart, Skeeter's boyfriend. He was raised to believe southern women behave a certain way. They were raised to be wives and mothers, to defer to the men in their lives for everything. Yet he keeps getting involved with who have kicked aside that goal and are doing something more. He is confused and doesn't know what to do.
A good story includes humor, anger, conflict, and love. Kathryn Stockett has woven the full range of emotions and situations into a moving story. The reader wants to laugh with, hug, or scream at the characters. The characters come to life as their stories unfold in The Help.
Notice: Non-graphic violence
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