The Hype on “The Help”

The Help, By Kathryn Stockett.

I’ve got my fair share of favorite books and they are pilled high in my bookshelf. But there are the gems in that pile that I consistently think about and talk about. One of those gems is The Help by Kathryn Stockett and there are several key reasons this is top book on my list of faves.

I have found that some of my favorite novels recently have developed an empowered woman character. And one could argue that this is because I am a woman. But I think there is more to how I relate to these characters than just their sex.

In the novel, The Help, I related most to Skeeter, a recent college graduate living at home and clinging on to a much bigger dream (becoming a New York writer). She is surrounded by a group she has little interest in but finds her voice in writing articles in the local newspaper. And I would say the author based Skeeter off her own story.

In her post word, Kathryn Stockett writes that she graduated with an English and creative writing degree. She moved to New York when she was 24 and worked in magazine publishing.  She later wrote this novel in remembrance of her own family maid and to ease homesickness.

This is freakishly similar in terms of my own goals. So I guess I would have to relate most to Stockett in the end. She’s a sort of roll model to me.

The Help is a time period piece, which I love. Set in the early 1960’s south, it’s no wonder the topic be centered around blacks and whites. This was the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, and in some ways, it is still being ‘moved’. But Stockett slips in several other issues very much present today. Generational gaps, societal splits, and individual empowerment to name a few.

(Spoiler alert ahead!)

She writes for the character first and we, as readers, can’t help but take them and love them or hate them like real people we see everyday. And for all the women in this novel, I did just that.

I related most to Skeeter and accepted her mother. Disgraced Stuart. I wished I knew more about Cecilia’s past and approved of her husband. I pitied Elizabeth and her constant efforts to please Hilly, whom I hated. Loved Minny, mostly because of her revenges made. And admired Aibileen’s wisdom and efforts to teach Mae Mobley what little difference there is between them.

On the book a review reads, “This could be one of the most important pieces of fiction since To Kill a Mockingbird…If you read only one book…let this be it.” – I read this and found it a very bold statement but might just agree with it. It will be a book taught in schools in the near future and will be on a classics list right along with To Kill a Mockingbird.

The motion picture was also a great success! I was nervous going to see the film, as I didn’t want it to ruin my feelings about the characters in the fantastic novel if the movie was a bust. But it had just as great an impact on me. I fell in love with the characters all over again and have watched it several times since, especially when I lose my own direction in life.

And that’s what stories are all about. Life lessons. If you haven’t already read The Help put it on top of your list. And if you have, let me know what your thoughts are on the novel! What about the movie?

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