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Guest Post: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

July 17, 2010

My Mom and I both read The Help recently. Well, she read it and then told me to drop whatever else I was doing and read it, too, so she would have someone to talk about it with. After I finished it, we talked on the phone for a bit about the characters we loved and the ones that made our blood boil. It’s one of those books that requires discussing with someone else who has be let in on the secret.

Even before I started The Help, Mom offered to write a guest blog post for the book. She contributed a guest post a while back, and I’m very happy to welcome her back with some of her thoughts on The Help.

When I was browsing through the bookstore today and saw copies of The Help on the shelf I was tempted to open the cover and see how my friends were doing.  I closed the cover on my copy of the book over a week ago but I have not forgotten the characters.  I doubt I ever will.

I feel badly for how quickly I blazed through the book.  I lost sleep.  I worried.  I was reluctant to say too much about the plot for fear that someone might find out about the project Miss Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny were working on.  I felt responsible for keeping the secret safe.  People could get hurt.

I am indebted to Kathryn Stockett for bringing me back to the 1960’s.  Even though I was a child in Canada, I remember watching Walter Cronkite reporting on the Civil Rights movement in the States.  I remember being let out of school early the day John F. Kennedy was shot and I remember that I was babysitting when the news broke about Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

This week, as the story settled into me, I wondered what might have become of these characters in today’s world.   Would Mae Mobley (who would be just five years younger than me) grow to be a confident, loving person with the three simple phrases that Aibileen made her repeat on the day Aibileen left her home? I wondered what stories Miss Skeeter went on to tell when she moved to New York.  Kathryn Stockett – I think there’s room for another book here.

Even though this story is fictional, it brought back the news reports and gave me a glimpse of the immense amount of courage it took to bring about change. And now, 40 plus years later, America has a black president.  Wouldn’t Aibileen be amazed?

It is Saturday as I write this and so, in keeping with Alita’s Soundtrack Saturday feature, I’ve chosen the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, We Shall Overcome, sung by Mahalia Jackson as the soundtrack of courage to accompany The Help.

I completely agree with Mom about how involved Stockett makes the reader feel. During the last 50-ish pages, I felt so much anxiety for the characters, I couldn’t eat and read pretty much right through dinner time. There are numerous passages in this book that I could highlight, but I’m going to leave you with the one that stood out to me the most. This is Minny giving her reason for being involved in Skeeter’s project:

And I know there are plenty of other “colored” things I could do besides telling my stories or going to Shirley Boon’s meetings – the mass meetings in town, the marches in Birmingham, the voting rallies upstate. But truth is, I don’t care that much about voting. I don’t care about eating at a counter with white people. What I care about is, if in ten years, a white lady will call my girls dirty and accuse them of stealing the silver. (p. 218)

Check out more from my mom over at her blog, especially the post she did on The Magnetism of a Used Book Store.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2010 8:21 pm

    i love your mom’s review and appreciate the perspective she brought to it. i really enjoyed this novel but had a hard time imagining that things were ever as bad as they were in this country. i was born in the mid-70s and had no real concept of civil rights except what i saw on shows about the 60s, what my parents told me, and images from a life magazine book that my dad had. he would often attempt to explain why firemen were hosing african american men and women and why the birmingham police allowed dogs to menace the same people.

    two years ago, my husband and i visited memphis, tn and stopped at the civil rights museum, housed in the lorraine motel, where MLK was assassinated. the museum was extremely well done but sobering.

    stockett’s novel helps to illuminate some of the darkest hours in american history, but she manages to create a beautiful story from the terrible time.

    enjoyed this review and the song selection.

  2. July 18, 2010 8:52 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts Nat. The emotions of this book are still churning up memories in me. Alita was over for a couple of hours this afternoon and we talked about the book, MLK and why I chose Mahalia with “We Shall Overcome” when there are so many other recordings of the anthem.

    Even though I was living far north of the deep south, I still have memories of what we saw on our brand new black and white TV and what we talked about in school. Stockett’s book gave me a reason to talk about it – and that’s a good thing.

  3. July 18, 2010 8:56 pm

    Really enjoyed this post, I think it’s wonderful you both share a love of reading and can chat about books you’ve read. I loved The Help, the audio version was absolutely brilliant, fantastic narration and this was one of my favourite read last year.

  4. July 19, 2010 6:55 am

    I love books that bring you back to certain times in your life! I have this book on hold at the library and I can’t wait to read it! PS I think it’s rad that your Mom guest posted for you! :)

  5. July 19, 2010 1:28 pm

    Wow. What a great review! Thanks to your mom for sharing her views with us. I think I’ll have to get hold of this one quick. I want in on the big secret.

  6. July 21, 2010 2:42 pm

    What a great review. I’ve been putting off reading this book, as I was slightly wary that it’s overhyped. I think I’ll have to put my concerns aside, and just read the book, for it really does sound wonderful.

  7. stacybuckeye permalink
    August 4, 2010 11:00 am

    I still haven’t read this, but now I’m worried about these characters too, LOL! Great guest post, Mom.

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