(by Kathryn Stockett)
“Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…
There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.”
You guys! I finished this book today, I adored it and you must read it. I couldn’t wait to share. I’m glad I didn’t see the film first, though seeing the trailer prompted me to read the book, as it’s been sitting on my shelf for a year or so. There’s more to that blurb, but I don’t think it does the book justice. The blurb, and the cover, ironic enough as that is, put me off this book until now. The book is told alternately from the 3 perspectives of these three women. We begin with Aibileen, the 53-year-old maid who now works for Miss Leefolt. Miss Leefolt is 23, and has minimum interest in Mae Mobley, her two year old with “big brown eyes and honey colour curls. The bald spot in the back of her hair kinda throw things off. She get the same wrinkle between her eyebrows when she worried, like her mama. They kind a favour except Mae Mobley so fat. She ain’t gonna be no beauty queen. I think it bother Miss Leefolt, but Mae Mobley my special baby.” Aibileen is kindly and likeable and trustworthy. She is brilliant at making Mae Mobley feel better in any situation whether she is colicky or being cruelly ignored by her mama. You get right into Aibileen and others’ southern accents too. They are quite fun. Oh Law.
Minny is Aibileen’s best friend. 17 years younger. She is mouthy and hilarious. She’s been fired by many white women because she can’t hold her tongue. Aibileen conspires to get Minny a job with a mysterious new lady who has moved into the outskirts of town. As long as Miss Hilly doesn’t find out… Minny has five young children and a husband who beats her.
Skeeter is back from college. She wants to be a writer. All her friends dropped out of college to marry, her mother is tired of trying to get her up the aisle. She’s six-foot tall and her hair isn’t as flat as her mother would like. She starts to talk in a little more depth to her friend Elizabeth Leefolt’s maid Aibileen when she gets a housekeeping column in the local newspaper but realises that she doesn’t know anything about housekeeping and cleaning. It’s trying to think of a controversial topic that she feels passionate about to impress Elaine Stein at Harper and Row publishers, that she dares to think about writing the stories of what it’s like to be a black maid working for white women in Jackson, Mississippi. Skeeter has always been kinder to the maids and respectful. She misses her own maid Constantine, whom no one seems to want to talk about. Where has she gone? Why did the letters stop so suddenly? Perhaps when she starts secretly conducting the vital interviews with Aibileen -they have to be SO careful… she will also get some answers of her own.
Skeeter is part of the Bridge Club and many other organisations with the awful young elite wives of Jackson. Miss Hilly is the ringleader and the ultimate baddie of this book.
One kind of incidental subplot involves a sad revelation and a LOT of blood and I swear I was millimeters from fainting, all alone on my Belfast room. I had to push the book away, cover my eyes, rock slightly.
It’s the throwaway lines in this book that will break your heart. I felt so grateful to Kathryn Stockett for allowing these things to happen in her story. I don’t want to spoil too much of it for you. The women are inspirational and it’s so satisfying when they begin to work together. So many awful things happen but there is such a bubble of hope.
I haven’t seen the movie and I’m torn between REALLY wanting to and knowing I will be bawling my eyes out. And what if that incident is in it? Has anyone seen the film?
I’m glad I broke my book famine for this one. It will stay with me for a long time, I think you should read it. I agree wholeheartedly with Marian Keyes “Daring, vitally important and very courageous. I loved and admired The Help. Fantastic.”