Friday, September 2, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is a story told in the 1960s amid events such as the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, the death of a popular US President, Mr. John F. Kennedy, and the most important era of Civil Rights activism.

Ms. Skeeter Phelan returns home from college to find her life-time maid, Constantine, gone and no one will tell her where she is and why she left. Constantine was her one true friend.

Skeeter sends her resume to Harper and Row, a big publishing company in New York City. Who would hire a female recent graduate from Jackson, Mississippi to work in New York City? And much to her surprise, she receives a letter. Yeah, it's a rejection letter, but the sender, Ms. Stein, encourages her to find unique things to write about and to send her a list of those things and she'd help her out. She encourages Skeeter to get a job at the local newspaper. And so Skeeter does...writing a housekeeping advice column.

When Skeeter realizes she knows nothing about housekeeping she turns to her good friend Elizabeth Leefolt and asks to use Elizabeth's hired help, Aibileen, to help her answer the Ms. Myrna housekeeping questions.

It is with Aibileen that Skeeter gets her most majestic idea ever.

"No one ever writes from the side of the help," she explains to Ms. Stein. And then she's off, collecting stories from maids all over town about what it's like to work for a white family. It isn't easy at first. What black lady in her right mind would take such a risk in the deep south in the sixties, telling stories about the white families they work for? Fortunately, Skeeter is able to convince Aibileen to take part and through a series of events, convinces more than a dozen others as well.

These women are risking their very lives to tell their stories. The stories these women tell are stories of hurt, shame, appreciation, love and everything in between. They are stories of heroism, bravery, and fun times along with the bad. Skeeter finds herself wrapped up in the lives of these ladies and the new perspective she's found to tell an old story. But in keeping the secret, she loses her best friends, Hilly Holbrook and Elizabeth Leefolt, and now her relationship with the Senator's son is at stake.

Will their personal accounts be published for the world to see? Of course, it'll be published under Anonymous, and all the names are changed. Will anyone recognize the stories and find out they come from Jackson, Mississippi? Even if they do, Minny has a weapon. Will it be strong enough to keep them from getting the maids thrown in jail...or worse?

To find out if Aibileen, Skeeter and Minny are able to pull off the most daring endeavor of the time, look for The Help at your local bookstore or online.

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