Reading Picks: The Help

the-help

Hello Readers!  Now, I’m sure everyone is excited for tomorrow’s festivities and the last thing on your mind is a book to read.  However, I love traveling because it means I can sit and read while we travel along.  Whether you plan to drive, fly, or ride the train, bus, or subway, books are easy companions because they are compact and obvious picks.  And my pick right now is The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

I’m sure you’ve read this book by now.  If not, let me give you a brief summary about it.  This book takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960’s before Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freedom Riders marched for Equal Rights.  This was a time in American History that segregation was law and African Americans were little more than underpaid slaves in the south.  This book follows an extraordinary group of black maids and one kooky white woman.

In the book, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, the daughter of a cotton plantation owner that’s just graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree, wants to be a writer while her mom just wants her to settle down and marry.  While Skeeter adjusts to returning home, she notices a difference in how the blacks in her community are treated differently than the whites, often by the same employer.  So, she decides to write a book about this difference and about how the blacks are treated from their eyes rather than from a white person’s eyes.  This venture is dangerous, and she is only successful because of two maids that begin to trust her in the course of the book: Aibileen Clark, Skeeter’s old friend’s maid, and Minny Jackson, the spitfire maid that’s not above telling her employers what she thinks of them.

Throughout the process of writing the book, the three women often deal with very dangerous situations in which thinly veiled threats are given and a general sense of anger and rioting or violence is close at hand.  However, hilarity ensues throughout this novel as readers learn new embarrassing tales about the characters through the eyes of their maids.

I love this novel.  The first time I read this novel, I was constantly cracking up from it.  Quite often out loud.  I can remember laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes, and I was extremely grateful that it was a slower time than usual at work because it meant that I could enjoy this book without affecting anyone.  But my colleagues thought I had gone insane as I read the novel until I told them the gist of its contents.  And then they started reading the book, too.  Even the men.  Any book that draws such a reaction from me is a favorite for me.

Now, I will say that this book comes with a few warnings.  First of all, this book will make you a little uncomfortable at times.  This discomfort is due to the fact that you are literally reading racism at its peak.  This is deep South in the 60’s here.  You will encounter situations that make you cringe and they should.  The situations the maids endure within this novel are why the Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King, Jr., marched in the streets.  And even Skeeter in the novel, the rich white daughter of a rich white cotton plantation owner, experiences this racism and violence against black sympathizers firsthand.  She, too, becomes a victim of these acts of hate against the blacks.  And it is discomforting to know that these situations actually happened.  In fact, this novel actually downplays what happened.  So, be prepared to be a little uncomfortable and nervous.

Secondly, be prepared to laugh.  Yes, this book will make you laugh out loud.  There is a lot of tongue in cheek humor scattered throughout this novel.  And there are situations that will have you laughing with joy.  I don’t recommend reading this novel in your office if you aren’t allowed to read.  I don’t recommend reading this in church, or anywhere that may need a more solemn environment.  You should laugh during this book because characters get their just desserts.  And, yes, that is a pun that readers will understand.  That’s what makes this book so much fun.  It’s funny.

Next, I will warn you that this book may not be appropriate for kids.  Not only is there foul language but there are also situations in this book that kids may not be prepared to encounter yet.  That doesn’t mean you should hide the truth about the South and racism in America from your kids.  If you want to tell them about it then I encourage you to explain it to them.  But remember their age when you do so.  You wouldn’t explain BDSM to a 10 year old after reading Fifty Shades of Grey, so the same thing applies here.  I would encourage letting teens read this book at home because it can be understood by them.  But I would not recommend it for younger kids.  Instead, focus on the good that Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Freedom Riders did.  Focus on the evolution of our country instead.

Finally, I will warn you to keep tissues nearby.  While there are funny parts and nerve-wracking parts, there are also tear jerking moments in the book.  This novel really does snag at the heart strings.  And it should.  Because of the situations that are uncomfortable for all, the reader falls in love with the characters and feels for them when they go through anything.  You should feel all kinds of emotions when reading this novel.  And, I will say that the movie is similar to the book.  But, the book can be taken and enjoyed everywhere.

So, happy reading, Readers!

Until next time,

-BBM

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