Summary and book reviews of The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help

By Kathryn Stockett

The Help
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2009,
    464 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2011,
    528 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of BookBrowse's 2009 Reader Awards

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

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. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

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. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

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. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

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. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women — mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

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Excerpt
The Help

Two days later, I sit in my parent’s kitchen, waiting for dusk to fall.  I give in and light another cigarette even though last night the surgeon general came on the television set and shook his finger at everybody, trying to convince us that smoking will kill us.  But Mother once told me tongue kissing would turn me blind and I’m starting to think it’s all just a big plot between the surgeon general and Mother to make sure no one ever has any fun.

At eight o’clock that same night, I’m stumbling down Aibileen’s street as discreetly as one can carrying a fifty-pound Corona typewriter.  I knock softly, already dying for another cigarette to calm my nerves.  Aibileen answers and I slip inside.  She’s wearing the same green dress and stiff black shoes as last time.

I try to smile, like I’m confident it will work this time, despite the idea she explained over the phone.  “Could...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Who was your favorite character? Why?

  2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?

  3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter— and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?

  4. How ...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2009

Reviews

BookBrowse

The Help is a beautiful novel, and Kathryn Stockett is a natural storyteller with her finger on the pulse of the human condition. Her characters, their stories, and the complex questions they raise will linger deep in your mind long after you’re done reading.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Full Review Members Only (1185 words).

Media Reviews
New York Times - Janet Maslin

Here is a debut novel by a Southern-born white author who renders black maids’ voices in thick, dated dialect... [an] ultimately soft-pedaled version of Southern women’s lives... a problematic but ultimately winning novel.

Atlanta Journal

This heartbreaking story is a stunning debut from a gifted talent.

The Washington Post

[A] nuanced variation on [a familiar] theme that strikes every note with authenticity. In a page-turner that brings new resonance to the moral issues involved, [Stockett] spins a story of social awakening as seen from both sides of the American racial divide.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Is this an easy book to read? No, but it is surely worth reading.

Author Blurb Jill Conner Browne
I love The Help. Kathryn Stockett has given us glorious characters and a powerful, truth-filled story. Abilene, Minny and Skeeter, show that people from this troubled time came together despite their differences and that ordinary women can be heroic.

Author Blurb Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South
A magical novel. Heartbreaking and oh so true, the voices of these characters, their lives and struggles, will stay with you long after you reluctantly come to the end.

Reader Reviews
Lee

Interesting book
I think this book is very interesting because we can compare the book with today's time.

Cloggie Downunder

a wonderful moving tale
The Help is the first novel by Kathryn Stockett. Set in the early sixties in Jackson, Mississippi, the story is narrated in three voices: two black maids (“help”) and a young white woman. Aibileen Clark is a wise Negro woman who has raised 17 white ...   Read More

Rebecca Hersh

Christianity in "The Help"
What does everybody think about the anti-Christian message subtly woven throughout the book? Hilly, the villain, remarks to Skeeter, the heroine, "And you call yourself a Christian!" (p.407) among numerous other similar interactions, ...   Read More

Kate

Awesome! Wonderful!
A wonderful great book! So enjoying and learning!

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Medgar Evers

As Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny begin their project, the Civil Rights Movement is boiling to high heat. It is 1963 and President Kennedy has just spoken out in support of Civil Rights; however, the message has yet to penetrate Mississippi where Medgar Evers was just brutally murdered by segregationist whites. This example of racial violence gives Aibileen and Minny pause as they consider the repercussions of what they are doing with Skeeter, but they decide to forge ahead because things need to change.

Medgar EversMedgar Evers's murder resounded across the country and was seen as an example of racial injustice and violence in the Deep South. Evers had been a civil rights activist for much of his life. After fighting in World War II, he was ...

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