So I finally read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I may be the last person in America to read this book. And while reviewing it feels akin to reviewing something as universally beloved as say, spring, I will take a stab at it.
If you've been living under a rock, The Help is about the relationship between black domestics and white families in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60s. There are three rotating narrators: Aibileen, an older, gentle black woman who has been working for white families for years; Minny, a younger black woman and Aibileen's best friend, who has lost many maid jobs due to her hot temper and sharp tongue; and Skeeter, a young white woman awakening to the civil rights movement and her hometown's racist legacy.
In many ways, The Help is a very compelling book. I found its theme – the complicated ways in which white and black women related to each other during that particular period of history – to be painful, fascinating, and thought-provoking. I love that Stockett took this on, and I love that this book has become a bestseller. It's a page-turner, full of suspense and a few surprises.
My complaint about The Help is… it felt a little contrived at times. Some of the plot twists were just a little too convenient and fit a bit too neatly into the plot. I feel like Stockett had the screenplay for the inevitable movie adaptation in mind while she was writing. As a result, it felt at times like I was reading a script, rather than a piece of historical fiction. The subject matter was compelling enough that Stockett didn't need to rely on gimmicks – a little understatement would have gone a long way.
So my feeling about this book is – it's not perfect, but it is a great read, and a worthwhile topic, and mostly deserving of the heaps of praise it has gotten.