Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Book Addict Reviews: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction, Southern Fiction, Audiobook
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Author Info: Goodreads | Website
Rating: 3 stars   
Borrowed this book from the library.  

In A Nutshell:  
Kathryn Stockett did a wonderful job putting together a story filled with intriguing characters and unexpected surprises.  I am pretty sure I will never look at chocolate pie the same way again.  In fact, I am not sure I will look at many stories about the South, about Jim Crow laws, or about civil rights the same way again.  But I did have some issues with the story--in particular some questions come off as being one dimensional.  However, these issues did not take away from a story that left me laughing and crying over and over again. 

After my last couple of experiences with audiobooks I was beginning to question my appreciation for audiobooks--until I found this book. The Help capitalized on the opportunity to utilize multiple narrators in order accentuate Kathryn Stockett's use of multiple narrators to tell her story.  It was very easy to keep the different narrators separate in my mind because they literally had different voices.  My one complaint was that the narrator chosen to read for Aibileen sounded younger than the narrator chosen to read for Minny so I kept forgetting that Aibileen was really the older of the two characters. 

The Help capitalized on the opportunity to tell the story that brought a time and a place I did not personally experience to life for me.  I do not think I will ever think of Jim Crow laws or the civil rights movement or Mississippi without thinking of Aibileen, Minny, and the other maids telling their stories or Hilly talking about her Home Help Sanitation Initiative or Elizabeth's approach and treatment of her children.

But in some respects I felt some of the characters were a little over simplified (or maybe one-dimensional is a better way to describe it).  They seemed to lack some balance of good and bad traits.  For instance, I know that Aibileen commented that Hilly was a good mother to her kids--but otherwise I do not think she had a single redeeming quality.  And if she is really that bad then how could Skeeter (who is very much portrayed as a good virtuous person) remain close friends for her so long.  In some respects, I could attribute it to Skeeter not wanting to incur Hilly's wrath--but their friendship seems to go beyond the bounds of friendship for politeness.  They were college roommates.  They were in bridge club together (at least for a while).  These were closer bonds than many people in the town could boast with Hilly.  So did Hilly have redeeming qualities that were not shown to the reader or did Skeeter make a mistake being such a close friend with Hilly for so many years?

Overall though, the book left a good impression on me.  It gave me insight into the way that people in the South related to each other.  For someone who grew up well after the civil rights movement, there were some aspects of that culture that I could not appreciate as much before reading this book.  The feelings that are described by the narrators who had to hide they were friends because a real threat of retaliation touched me in ways I had not expected when I started this story. 
I have been putting off watching the movie until I had a chance to read the book--now I cannot wait to watch the movie!


  1. I read this book before the movie came out, and I LOVED it! The movie does a pretty good job of following the book. A few things left out or changed, but not in such a way that it really hurts the story for the movie. I like that the audio book uses different voices, that's a great way to do a story told this way. You can see my review here.

    1. I am glad to hear that the movie does not change the story too much--I did ask a friend of mine who had recently watched the movie if the pie was in there. Now I cannot wait to watch the movie! :)

  2. I avoided watching the movie before I read the book too. (I actually still haven't seen the movie yet.) I too will never look at chocolate pie the same way again.

    This book really made me think differently about a lot of different things, which I thoroughly enjoyed.