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The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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it was amazing
bookshelves: audiobook, buddy-read
Recommended to Matt by: Sarah Suzy

Kathryn Stockett has created this wonderful story that depicts life in America’s South during the early 1960s. A mix of humour and social justice, the reader is faced with a powerful piece on which to ponder while remaining highly entertained. In Jackson, Mississippi, the years leading up to the Civil Rights Movement presented a time where colour was a strong dividing line between classes. Black women spent much of their time serving as hired help and raising young white children, while their mommas were playing ‘Society Lady’ as best they could. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan may have been part of the clique, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she held herself on the periphery, at times looking in. Skeeter was unwed and with few prospects, though her time away at college left her ready to tackle the workforce until an eligible man swept her off her feet. Skeeter returned to Jackson, only to find her family’s help left under mysterious circumstances and no one was willing to discuss it. Skeeter sought a job as a writer, prepared to begin at the bottom rung, but not giving up on sleuthing around to determine what might have been going on in Jackson. Skeeter scored a job writing an informative column in the local newspaper, giving cleaning tips to housewives in need of a little guidance. Who better to offer these tips that the hired help of Jackson?! Skeeter fostered a slow friendship with one, while building up a trust, and has an idea for a book that could offer a unique perspective in Mississippi’s divided society. Skeeter sought to write a tell-all from the perspective of the hired help, in hopes of shining a light on the ongoing domestic slavery taking place within a ‘freed’ America. With secret meetings taking place after working hours and Skeeter typing away, a mental shift took place and the idea of class became taboo, at least to some. Full of confessions and struggles in Mississippi society, Skeeter’s book may just tear the fabric of what has been a clearly demarcated community since after the Civil War. However, sometimes a book has unforeseen consequences, turning the tables on everyone and forcing tough decisions to be made. Stockett pulls no punches in the presentation, fanning the flames of racial and class divisions, as she depicts a way of thinking that was not only accepted, but completely sanctioned. A must-read for anyone ready to face some of the treatment undertaken in the name of ‘societal norms’, Stockett tells it like it was… and perhaps even still is!

Race relations in the United States has long been an issue written about, both in literature and pieces of non-fiction. How a country as prosperous as America could still sanction the mistreatment of a large portion of its citizens a century after fighting a war on the issue remains completely baffling. While Stockett focusses her attention on Mississippi, the conscious reader will understand that this sort of treatment was far from isolated to the state. One might venture to say that racism continued on a worldwide scale, creating a stir, while many played the role of ostriches and denied anything was going on. The characters within the book presented a wonderful mix of society dames and household help, each with their own issues that were extremely important. The characters bring stereotypes to life in an effort to fuel a raging fire while offering dichotomous perspectives. The interactions between the various characters worked perfectly, depicting each group as isolated and yet fully integrated. The household help bring the struggle of the double work day (triple, at times) while the society dames grasp to keep Mississippi from turning too quickly towards integration and equality, which they feel will be the end of all normalcy. Using various narrative perspectives, the characters become multi-dimensional. Additionally, peppering the dialogue with colloquial phraseology pulls the story to a new level of reality, one that is lost in strict textbook presentation. Stockett pushes the narrative into those uncomfortable places the reader hopes to keep locked in the pages of history, pushing the story to the forefront and requiring a synthesising of ideas and emotions. This discomfort is the only way the reader will see where things were, likely in a hope not to repeat some of history’s worst moments in America’s development. However, even fifty years after the book’s setting, there remains a pall of colour and class division promulgating on city streets. While racism is not as sanctioned in as many laws, it remains a strong odour and one that cannot simply be washed away by speaking a few words. This book, as entertaining as it is in sections, is far from fictional in its depiction of the world. The sooner the reader comes to see that, the faster change can occur. All lives matter, if we put in the effort and have the presence of mind to listen rather than rule from our own ivory towers.

Kudos, Madam Stockett for this wonderful piece. I am happy to have completed a buddy read on this subject and return to read what was a wonderful cinematic presentation.

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Reading Progress

June 28, 2017 – Shelved
June 28, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
June 29, 2017 – Started Reading
June 29, 2017 – Shelved as: audiobook
June 29, 2017 – Shelved as: buddy-read
June 29, 2017 –
45.0% "What a brilliant story that Stockett has devised with this book! Set in the early 1960s, the novel takes the perspective of certain black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. How do they fare serving the white upper-class families at a time when race relations were still fragile. When one of these upper crust members seeks to begin a life as a journalist, she wants the stories that tell the other side of race relations."
July 2, 2017 –
87.0% "With a story that pauses for nothing, the reader is pulled deeper into the struggles of the maids in Jefferson and their attempts not to topple the apple cart. However, they remain loyal to the ideals that Eugenia professes in her tell-all book. While she writes, Eugenia remained a pariah amongst her friends for not simply swallowing the colour divisions within the state. The year is 1964 and the times are changing."
July 3, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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Mackey LOVED this book. I think I actually lived this book in childhood. I hope you enjoy it Matt.

Matt Thanks Mackey. The book is wonderful so far.

message 3: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie  Hanna I would love to read this. It sounds amazing.

Sarah Suzy 💛💛💛

Matt Thank you Jessica. It comes highly recommended... and the movie was good too.

Matt Oh Sarah, thank you for recommending it to me

Sarah Suzy Jessica, you won't regret this read!!

message 9: by Krystal (new) - added it

Krystal This is an amazing book!

message 10: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt So true, Krystal!

Marty Fried Glad you liked this book, Matt;I loved it. I grew up in Alabama, and lived there through the 60s, then moved out to California in 1970 to get as far away from the area as possible. I was there when MLK marched in Selma, when our police commissioner, Eugene "Bull" Connor turned the fire hosed onto the peaceful Black protestors, when our governor stood on the steps at the Univ of Alabama to block the first black student, etc. My parents taught me that this was all wrong, and I took it to heart and could not fathom how people could be like that. But I never felt hated or threatened by the blacks; can't say the same for some of the whites, though.

message 12: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie  Hanna I've heard good things about the movie, too! I will definitely try to check both the book and film out.

Candace Terrific review! This is one of my favorite books.

Ginger Great book and great review Matt!

message 15: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thanks Marty. I cannot imagine this mentality, then or now.

message 16: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thanks for your kind words, Candace!

message 17: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thanks Ginger. It had a certain spice to it that I could not help but enjoy.

Carol (Bookaria) Glad you enjoyed it! Great review!

message 19: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thanks Carol!!

message 20: by Selena (new) - added it

Selena Hi my friend beautiful review do u know I been wanting to read this so bad thank u for reminding me I need this I appreciate the review very much my friend!

message 21: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt My pleasure, Selena. Thanks for your kind words.

message 22: by Selena (new) - added it

Selena U very welcome happy july4 to u an your cute baby

message 23: by Hrdwlby (new)

Hrdwlby Great review as always, Matt!

message 24: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thanks Hrdwlby

Barbara Great review Matt. It's sad that racism is still a problem in the U.S.

message 26: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thanks, Barbara. I completely agree with you!!

Mariah Roze Great review :)

message 28: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thank you, Mariah

message 29: by Pat (last edited Jul 06, 2017 06:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pat Wonderful review Matt and an interesting topic. Interesting to me because it was only in 1967 that Aboriginals is Australia were recognised as 'people' and began to be counted in the census and got the right to vote. Some say that they were still being shot out of the back of utes (pick-up trucks to you Nth Americans) in the 1960s. Racism is still alive and well in some parts of the world.

message 30: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Thanks Pat. That said, there is nothing "well" about racism in any part of the world.

message 31: by Pat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pat Yes of course not, not the best choice of word but you know what I mean. I sometimes wish we could banish all 'isms'.

message 32: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Tomasso Great review Matt. I must look into this novel. It's so sad that many years later there needs to be a "black lives matter" campaign. I wish people would see that all lives matter but maybe that's the idealist in me.

message 33: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt Totally agree, Elaine!

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