BookBrowse Reviews The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett X
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2009, 464 pages
    Apr 2011, 528 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book



Winner of BookBrowse's 2009 Reader Awards

Kathyrn Stockett's compelling debut novel The Help investigates the relationship between black and white women in 1960s Mississippi. At the center of the novel are Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, three women who have grown dissatisfied with the way things are. Each woman's life has been difficult in its own way, but all three see the stratified, racist society of Jackson, Mississippi as partly responsible. They band together to effect change, but their efforts result in something far different than what they originally expected. They soon realize that the ties that bind in this hierarchical society are not straightforward or clear-cut.

With vibrant language, memorable characters, and excellent pacing, The Help contemplates what it means to live in the trenches of injustice. Though Stockett's insightful novel primarily meditates on the domestic relationships between blacks and whites, it also implicitly analyzes the impact of a discriminatory society on all involved. As Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny inherently understand, it is not just the black women who are kept from Jackson's inner circle. In a society where hierarchy is ardently defended, injustice is felt by people from all walks of life.

Skeeter -- tall, awkward, single -- returns home from Ole Miss to realize that the woman who raised her, the family's black maid Constantine, is gone. As she spends time with her childhood friends, married women with children and black maids of their own, Skeeter begins to observe the contradictions that surround her. Black women are expected to watch and raise the white children, the prizes of white parents, but they are unable to use the same cutlery or bathroom as the whites. As her hurt from Constantine's absence grows, she remembers what this special woman meant to her. She also realizes that many white families have "Constantines," and many of them are not treated well. She makes the decision to reach out to these black maids and discover their stories.

When Skeeter asks Aibileen to record her experiences working in white homes, Aibileen is afraid. This is 1960s Mississippi, and it is illegal for blacks and whites to discuss racial issues. Aibileen, however, has had sadness of her own. Her beloved son Treelore died a few years ago, and the white child Mae Mobley that Aibileen watches everyday is learning racist ideas at school. Aibileen has followed the rules all her life, but when her white mistress begins to talk over her bridge table about the diseases whites can get from blacks, Aibileen realizes she wants to fight back.

Aibileen asks Minny, her close friend, to join the project. Minny has worked in a number of white households, only to find herself at wit's end once she is shunned by Hilly Holbrook, a violent racist who makes it her mission to keep Minny out of work. Good luck and a few lies soon find her in the employ of Celia Foote, a woman on the fringe of high society. As Celia struggles to find a way into Jackson's upper crust, Minny realizes that discrimination happens regardless of color.

Against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement and racial injustices perpetrated by the Klu Klux Klan, The Help penetrates the façade of polite society during an era of awesome change. For generations black women have helped white women raise children and clean house, yet the machine of society is moving. Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen must negotiate this change in the historical pattern of life, a pattern, they learn, that is not easily wiped away.

The Help is a beautiful novel, and Kathryn Stockett is a natural storyteller with her finger on the pulse of the human condition. This unique glimpse into domestic life during integration will be one of the best reads this year. Her characters, their stories, and the complex questions they raise will linger deep in your mind long after you're done reading. Drop everything you're doing and read this book!

This review was originally published in February 2009, and has been updated for the April 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Medgar Evers

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist


Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.