I am normally bothered by major southern accents when reading a book. Even when they make sense for the story, they don’t help immerse me in the story but keep me from fully enjoying it. Usually, anyway. The Help has such a powerful story that for the first time in a long time, it didn’t bother me at all. It just felt right, as did so much of this book. The voices were so captivating and strong that it worked. Sure, I couldn’t help but imagine Emma Stone speaking whenever I read a line spoken by Skeeter, but as a fan of Emma Stone (I saw the movie first) this didn’t bother me.
The plot: There is no more complex and bizarre relationship than that of women in the south in the sixties, where black women raise white babies while working as the help in wealthy white homes and yet are treated as second class, disease-ridden citizens at the same time. Skeeter is an aspiring journalist and college grad who returns home to find that the black maid who raised her is gone without explanation. This helps set her on a dangerous journey, where she recruits Aibeleen, Minny, and other black maids to tell their stories as the invisible help in white homes.
Though Skeeter is the mode through which their stories are able to be told, Aibeleen and Minny stand on their own as main characters with inspirational journeys. Some may think Skeeter’s role diminishes Aibeleen and Minny’s accomplishments and daring (because a white woman played a major role in helping them do it and have the courage), but I think she simply showed them that it is possible for a white woman to think differently and therefore trying to reveal the truth might be worth it. Basically, I think she gave them perspective. To say that this is Skeeter’s story would be a mistake. It is Minny’s story and Aibeleen’s story as much as Skeeter’s and the book shows them all evenly.
The movie itself is pretty fantastic, but what it couldn’t capture the way the book did, was the intense isolation experienced by Skeeter as she went through her journey. Whether or not you see the movie, I recommend you read this book. I have mostly been reading Young Adult books lately, but this book was well worth the deviation.