The Help Review

By | January 20, 2012

The Help
By: Kathryn Stockett

Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5
Recommended for: Historical Fiction Readers

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.

I saw the previews for this movie in the summer, when I was back visiting my family in America. My eyebrows raised as the trailer played in front of me and when it finished, my friend and I leaned in at the same time to say, “Looks good.” When I got back to Turkey, I was disappointed to find out that the movie would not come here until December, so I decided to legally purchase it when it came out on DVD in November. Right? Anyway, the movie was disappointing so when my friend handed me the book last week, I sighed and thought, “Well the book is always better than the movie right? So this must be okay.” And the verdict? The book is okay. It’s not bad like the film but it is not as good as it could have been.

I think the plot is good considering we have been down the 1960’s Mississippi dirt road many times before. Yet, the idea of maids producing a book about their life with the driving force of a white girl behind them is unique and Stockett actually makes it believable in the book. In addition, the author paints a much more dynamic and dangerous view of Jackson than was portrayed in the movie, with extra details and sub-plots. What would have made the overall plot better, however, would have been the development of some of the sub-plots which were introduced and then never developed, like Minny’s pregnancy. Also, some of the sub-plots were unnecessary or in my opinion, a bit ridiculous like the fact that Skeeter’s mother has cancer.

The characters are also done well. Stockett writes from the perspective of the three main characters and does a very good job of making their voices unique from one another. The relationship between the characters is okay, and that is one area that could have also been better. Skeeter and Aibileen grow together as they believe they are doing the right but dangerous thing of organizing the book, but you don’t see them actually have “a moment” where their friendship is apparent, and that is quite a bit of a letdown. In addition, Minny begins to care about the white woman she works for, Celia, but you never see Minny do anything to prove that. Instead the author uses internal dialogue to convey feelings poorly.

Even if you didn’t care much for the movie, you still may find the book a bit more interesting. At the worst, it’s a good rainy-day book to read when nothing else is available to you. It passes the time. But if you liked the movie, than I am sure you are going to love the book and enjoy the extras that didn’t make it to the big screen.

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