Sometimes books are just better when you listen to them. This is one of those books. One of the women I work with had read this book and when we were talking about it she recalled that I had both read and listened to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. I got more out of the book, listening to it. She suggested I might rather listen to The Help (2009) by Kathryn Stockett, and even though I already had a copy of the book, I downloaded it from EVPL's digital titles. She was right - the voices brought the characters alive!
The Help is told from the prospective of three women in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi. Two are African American household help and one is the daughter of one of the local white society families, a woman that had been raised by "the help." Because each alternating section is read by different voices full of personality and inflection the stories are more powerful.
Eugenia aka "Skeeter" has returned from college - Ole Miss of course - to a repressed life of social responsibilities and her mother pushing her to husband-hunt. But she wants to be a writer. Encouraged by a New York City editor to write about something she cares about or "disturbs" her and something more interesting than her current job writing about household hints, "Skeeter" convinces Abileen and Minny to help her write the stories of several African American women and their experiences working for white women and helping raise white children. Most of the stories are heartbreaking, full of the prejudice of the time, and just plain hateful. Some are sweet. Some are funny. Some would make you cry. Abileen and Minny come into their own through the experience - they begin as strong women in their own way and end up even stronger in a much different and self-actualized way. Skeeter changes amazingly from a young woman just floating through the life created for her into the beginnings of a strong woman and civil rights activist - an activist of actions and words.
This is an incredibly strong book about prejudice and love. As a debut novel for Stockett, it is an amazing. I will be watching for her work in the future.