The Help is a novel that takes place in Mississippi in the 1960s and tells the story of three women who embark on a risky and controversial project. Awkward and unmarried, Skeeter is a new graduate of Ole Miss with a degree in English and finds herself a stranger among her friend who are married with families and have hired the help of black women who raise their children and care for their homes. Disturbed by her friend’s mission to keep separate bathrooms for the help and by the unexplained disappearance of the beloved maid who raised her, Skeeter sets out to write a book about the experiences of the maids in the community.
She enlists the help of Aibileen and Minny, two maids who, despite their fears, agree to be interviewed in secret and who eventually enlist the help of 10 other maids to complete the book.
Aibileen reminds me a lot of Miss Celie from The Color Purple. She is quiet and obedient seems to have accepted her place in the grand scheme of things, even if she is quietly infuriated under the surface. She just doesn’t see how life could be any different. She has loved and raised 17 white children and watched them turn into their parents with the same racist views. Minny is sassy and outspoken and keeps getting fired for talking back to her employers. She realizes the danger of telling her story, as they all watch people being beaten and assassinated for crossing racial lines. The three women become unlikely friends as they invest their lives in Skeeter’s first book.
I loved this book. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but once I get into it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s got an interesting cast of characters who illustrate the racial division of the time period from both sides. I don’t want to give too much away by talking too much about our meeting. I had to laugh that one of the burning questions we had was, “Did Minny really commit the chocolate pie offense?” We talked a lot about the motivations of the characters and why they did what they did. Here’s a link to some discussion questions associated with the book. It’s definitely a recommended read!
So our book club plan is to meet once a month to discuss the latest book and we’ll take turns choosing the book. Next up: Vicki’s pick, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.