Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mini-Review - The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The blurb:

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town...

My thoughts:

The movie made me cry. So did the book. I enjoyed it very much. A lot of reviews talk of the way race relations are depicted in the book, whether to applaud it or denounce it, and of course it's the main theme. For this mini review I'd like to mention a different theme - motherhood.

There's Aibileen, heartbroken over the death of her grown son, raising other people's children with such love that they believe she is, or want her to be, their real mom, while her employer shows no love to her little girl. There's Minny and her children, following (more or less) the rules her mother taught her about being a maid, teaching those same rules to her eldest daughter, working for a woman desperate to have children of her own. There's Skeeter, who throughout the book tries to figure out what happened to the maid who raised her like her own child - in the place of her own child, in fact, as she eventually learns - and who has such a complicated relationship with her own mother. And there's Hilly and the way she puts her mother away in a 'old people' home, and tries to appropriate her silver, her maid and her cooking skills...which sets up such an important subplot.

How these characters love their mothers, how they learn from them, how they parent - or not - their children are all deep human experiences, and I thought the theme was treated both subtly and beautifully.

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