Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Help: A Review

Quite simply--I. Loved. It.

I really can't think of a thing I didn't like. I only wanted it to last longer. If you don't have time to read the rest of my review, just know it's worth your time to read this book. Go on. Read it.

And now, for the review--

One of my favorite things about reading is the chance it gives me to leave my own life behind--what is living, breathing reality to me--and experience the reality of another.

It's thrilling, actually. In a matter of minutes I zip into another world, another time, another country, and experience what I'd never experience if I lived a hundred times over. And as my fingers slide through the pages, my mind slides into the consciousness of another, and I am feeling, breathing, living that life--if for only a few hours.

Of course some writers capture me better than others. Some beckon me so strongly to that other world that I must force myself back to my own, scraping up the will power to WAIT. I don't want to miss my own life going on all around me, after all, even if that life is waiting for me in the form of dishes or laundry or bathrooms. Okay. Maybe not so much then.

Anyway, some books do their job so well that when the visit is over, my heart hurts a bit at the finality of "The End." It seems almost a tragedy not to have the characters--now my dear friends--step out of the book and into my life. For in the pages they seem so real. I LOVE it when that happens!

And no matter what my rational mind tells me. Those characters are real. So real I can hear them breathing.

The characters that most recently "breathed" for me are the three heroines of The Help, a touching story set in the south during the turbulent 1960s.

Eugenia "Skeeter" returns home to Jackson, Mississippi, after graduating from Ole Miss. She returns to her parents and her high-society friends but struggles to return to her old way of living and viewing life. The black maid who raised her, and whom she loves dearly, is nowhere to be found, and mystery surrounds her departure. She starts to notice the hypocrisy and ugliness of her society in general and her own friends in particular.

Wise and regal Aibileen is a black maid who works in the home of Skeeter's friend, Elizabeth. She is raising her 17th white child. After years of service to wealthy white families, something inside her changes when her only son, Treelore, is killed in a terrible accident. She tells her story in an eloquent yet authentic dialect.

Minny is Aibileen's best friend and mother to many of her own children. She is sassy and strong, but her tongue has gotten her into trouble, and she finds herself fired, yet again.

Together these three women embark on a dangerous journey of "what if." What if, in a world where people seem frantic to hold on to the ugliness and injustices of the past, things could change?

From a 21st century perspective, it's almost appalling to believe that just a short time ago things were in such need of changing. My own visit in this particular "life" sent me swinging from relief that things are not like that anymore to horror that it was ever that bad.

And yes, I paid attention in history class. I learned about the civil rights movement. And I love it every year when my kids come home and tell me what they've learned about Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. But there is something different--something life-giving--to the experience when you read about it in fiction.

Does fiction make it truer? More real? I wonder, sometimes. This particular portion of history is truer for me now than it has ever been before.

The Help is told masterfully, alternating from the perspectives of each of these women. I loved the authenticity of their voices--each different and each a treasure of humor, sorrow, wisdom, and individual growth. The relationship of Aibileen and her "17th child," Mae Mobley, is reason enough to read the book, but there are so many others.

Quite simply I loved it. And you're so lucky if you still have this journey ahead of you. My advice--take it soon.

1 comment:

  1. I love how you put into words exactly how I feel. That book was amazing. One of the best books I think I have ever read. I loved the way you put everything--described how I was feeling in a way I couldn't. Thank you!