The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

November 6, 2009

Book review: Fiction titles with historical bent make fascinating reads

"The Help"

By Kathryn Stockett

Adult fiction?

In 1962, 22-year-old Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan returns home to Jackson, Miss., after graduating from Ole Miss only to find that her mother refuses to be sated because she lacks a boyfriend and, more importantly, an engagement ring. On top of that, she no longer fits in with her childhood friends Hilly and Elizabeth, despite her best efforts to participate in their weekly bridge game and edit the Junior League newsletter.

Ordinarily she would solicit comfort and wisdom from her childhood maid, Constantine, but she disappeared while Skeeter was in her final semester at Ole Miss and no one will tell her what transpired.

Despite Skeeter’s desire to satisfy everyone, she must admit that her life is flawed. After receiving some advice from an editor in New York City, she endeavors to write a book about the lives of African-American maids in Jackson.

In researching the book, she secretly collaborates with two maids: Aibileen, a strong-willed maid who is raising her 17th white child and is doing her best to hold it together since her son died in a tragic workplace accident, and Minny, a sassy, to-die-for cook, who cannot hold a job because she is always running off at the mouth to her white employers.

The three seemingly different women have no idea how their courageous partnership will alter their lives and their community.

Kathryn Stockett is an extraordinary storyteller whose debut novel begs to be opened. Through the voices of Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny, readers will find themselves transported to the segregated South during the beginning stages of the civil rights movement and will be turning pages long into the night. Stockett’s theme may be familiar, but thanks to her commendable job of bringing history and characters to life, this book is a standout.

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