April 11, 2012 by Heidi
Title: The Help [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Kathryn Stockett [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Published: February 10th, 2009 by Penguin Audio
Format: Audiobook; 18 hrs, 7 min. Read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Cassandra Campbell, and Octavia Spencer.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
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.
I don’t read a ton of adult novels, and even when I do, I don’t often read the Bestsellers as I’ve found my tastes and the tastes of the masses don’t often align. I have found, however, that with these types of books audio is often the way to go; for example, I really enjoyed The DiVinci Code on audio during a road trip, when I probably wouldn’t have read the book otherwise. So when people of the blogosphere were constantly recommending the audiobook of The Help by Kathryn Stockett, along with a real life friend of mine, I decided to check it out. I’m happy to announce that everyone was right! This was a wonderful audiobook, certainly the ideal format for this story.
Now, I know some readers dislike multiple narrators, but I’m a fan, especially when the audiobook employs various narrators for each of the perspectives. The Help made use of this expertly, providing us with three narrators for the perspectives of Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter. One of the ladies in my book club told me she’d attempted to read The Help, but gave up because she couldn’t handle the written dialect. This is a complete non-issue in the audio format as the narrators have the accent and dialect down pat. The only issue I had with it was starting to think in a southern twang after too long of a listening session.
The Help does an excellent job of immersing the reader into the world of early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. It’s hard for someone as young as me, or from a place so nearly devoid of diversity as me (We have six, count ‘em, SIX African Americans in my home town. We did have a black woman mayor for years though which I think is pretty great considering.) to truly understand what any of the women in this book were living. Unsurprisingly, The Help was about women’s rights nearly as much as it was about civil rights, and is filled with strong, brave, and stubborn female characters for you to love and hate.
Honestly, I could talk a lot about the themes or messages of this book, but I feel like there isn’t much I could say that hasn’t already been said. I know I’m not the last person to read this book, but I’m so far from the first that going on and on seems silly. Mostly I just want to accentuate the fact that even though this wasn’t a book I would normally have picked up, I am so glad I did–I loved it. Also, this audiobook is masterful, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys audiobooks. I’m now super excited to see the movie and compare, though I’ve been battling that very long wait on Netflix since the release. Ah well, I’ll see it eventually (and let you know what I think when I do).
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Like I said, this wasn’t my normal read, so I probably won’t go out of my way to read Kathryn Stockett’s next book. That said, I am very willing to try more audiobooks that are in a similar vein and come highly recommended.
Recommended for: Those interested in the history of civil rights and black/white relations in the south in the 1960s, people who like stories about strong women. Anyone who enjoys audiobooks.