Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Publisher: Penguin Books
Set in the 60’s when civil unrest was at its height, Martin Luther King was making his famous speech, and black Americans began to make a stand, even at great personal risk. Jackson, Mississippi is a seat of KKK power, and working coloured people feared for their lives.
This is the town Miss Skeeter returns to, after gaining a degree. Her parents’ cotton plantation and lives seem stuck in a time. The home she lives in has Confederate memorabilia everywhere. Skeeter wants to be a writer, while her mother constantly reminds her that getting married is her immediate goal.
Her circle of friends is dominated by the very controlling Miss Hilly, who has considerable influence in the town, people get fired on her say so, some loose much more, respect and friendships as Skeeter was to discover. Skeeter feels tall and ungainly around her friends and is always trying to please them, until she starts her own little project, her whole outlook on the world changes. When Hilly sets Skeeter up on a blind date with her cousin Stuart, it seems that her mother’s prayers have been answered.
Aibileen works for Miss Leefolt, she moves from one family to another, specializing in caring for the young babies and children. Mae Mobley is her 17th white baby, and Aibileen loves her deeply, always sharing stories to give the child a sense of herself. This is something she only started doing after her world turned upside down, Aibileen had lost her own dearly loved son.
Minny is a great cook, everyone in Jackson knows it, she’s also has trouble holding her tongue, like other help in the town. She’d lost many jobs because of it and starts out working for Miss Celia, that doesn’t last. When Minny was just starting out to work, her mother gave her a lecture about how she should speak to white folk, and even though she knew how she should act, she found it hard.
This is a great book, getting to the heart of racial tension in Jackson, Mississippi when the world began to change. I can see why it is an international best seller and how the world would change by people reading how The Help really were treated, and that they had feelings and desires, something that was clearly not even thought about by many white Americans at the time.