As of this morning, I was on page 219 of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This evening, I’ve buzzed through all 521 pages. As many of my friends have said, “I couldn’t put it down.”
Very rarely do characters in books become as real as the people in my life that I love. These ladies managed to do so in a very short span of time. Even if the worst happened, I had to learn more about them.
That, and the movie is coming out on Friday. I tell my students that they *must always* read a book before seeing a movie because it’s the only way an intelligent person can make an informed judgement in comparison, so I feel obligated to follow the same rule. Plus, I believe in the sense of this particular law. So what if it’s nearly always the book that’s better? (Except, of course, in the unfortunate incident of P.S. I Love You, but I’m really starting to get off track here…)
Anyway… if you haven’t heard, the premise of the book is this. In the early 1960s, Skeeter Phelan has come home from college to Jackson, Mississippi. She wants to write, but the best she can do is the housekeeping column in the local paper. She enlists the help of a friend’s maid because she has never cared for a home, herself. Her family’s own maid had made that possible.
As she continues to look for writing opportunities, Skeeter earns the attention of a New York publisher. As a result, she begins writing the maids’ own stories. In today’s world, fighting for equality is a common idea. But fewer than fifty years ago, the fear of repercussions — blackballing, threats, death — were real.
Besides my concern for the characters in their time period, I enjoyed the little details Stockett wove into the book. For one, I never knew that remote controls were once called Space Controllers! And when one of the characters wanted time alone with her boyfriend because he probably wouldn’t brush her hair off her face if they were around others? Such an old fashioned and simple thrill. If only today’s love stories could be so innocent.
This book is told with poise and humor that few books have. I only hope the movie does it justice. If nothing else, they best not miss the lesson of this book: that no matter the color of one’s skin, or the station of their birth, everyone can be “kind, smart, and important.”