Posted by: ashburnreviews | November 17, 2009

The Help

I just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

The Help is the story of three women (one white and two black) who write a book about the relationship between black women working as maids and their white families. The Help is set in Mississippi in the 1960s. Throughout the book there are many stories, most told from the view point of the maids that are interviewed for the book. Their stories are both awful and horrible and touching and sweet.

And although this book did feel a bit lengthy (although I can never tell just how long because I read it on my iPhone) I wouldn’t have removed any bit of it. I really enjoyed reading this book and I was sad when it ended.

The characters in the novel seem so well developed. I felt like I knew them all. As I read along, I found myself getting angry and laughing and crying.

I hope I can word this right so that it makes sense, but I thought it was also very interesting that this book was about the process of the three women writing the book as opposed to just having the book be the book (that was written by the three women). By exploring the process of writing and publishing the book and how that affected everyone and in some way or another changes the entire town, I thought that you just learned a lot more about the people involved and the situation. It made me care more for them.

I felt a particular connection to this book because my grandmother grew up in the south and when she married and moved to Maryland and had children, her parents sent up a live-in black woman to help raise the kids, Mary. Mary stayed with my grandparents for many years, raising my dad and his two siblings and stayed long past that (I believe she was there at least 10 years after the children left the house). I knew Mary. I remember her coming to some of my elementary school plays. Mary always felt like part of the family.

I should say that have guilt about even talking about this. Is it okay to talk about this? I do have strong affection when I think back about her. Today, the oddity of having a girl sent up from the south is weird in my thinking – I think probably it would be weird and wrong in anyone’s thinking now-a-days. But that is just what happened and as a kid hearing about it, it didn’t seem odd at all. This was my great grandparents did for my grandparents and their children. And even today this action had an affect on me because I knew Mary. She worked for our family. And after reading this book, I’ve been missing her some and thinking about her.

What would have Mary’s life been if she was not raising my dad and his siblings? I don’t know. Was she even paid well for her services? Was living with my grandparents the best scenario for her? The worst? I guessing from reading this book, it was a mixed bag. Probably horrible things happened and wonderful things happened and a lot of in between. I’d like to think the relationship between by grandparents and Mary was more pleasant then most of the relationships in the book… but I honestly don’t know. My dad grew up 20 years before the time period that this book was written about. But he was in the north (or more north then Mississippi at least).


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