The story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963 (I think), just before desegregation and Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. There are too many stories to be able to write a proper synopsis, but a white woman gets the idea to write a story that details the goings on of "the help" that work in the houses around Jackson. If you consider the implications with this, you realize that this could lead to a lot of trouble for the people involved. The story is told from the point of view of three different people: the woman who is writing the book, Miss Skeeter (Eugenia), and two very different personalities that are working for "friends" of Miss Skeeter. They are Aibileen and Minny.
This is a book that tells a story from the point of view of "the help" who are trying to tell a story from the point of view of "the help". I tend to ask a lot of sociological questions when we get books that are influenced that way. I read an interesting statistic while researching ideas for questions to ask the Book Club: "According to the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, the desegregation of U.S. public schools peaked in 1988; since then, schools have become more segregated. As of 2005, the proportion of Black students at majority white schools was at "a level lower than in any year since 1968." " [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desegregation#Impediments_to_integrated_schools]
Let's jump into the review:
My tagline for this book would be: "The help always know."
I love the characters in this book, even the ones I didn't like, I still like that they are well written. I like that each of the characters has hidden facets. Example: Miss Leefolt doesn't seem overly fond of her children and treats them like a burden at times. On the other hand, Miss Hilly (who is a sort of antagonist) loves her children dearly and goes out of her way to tell them and show them that she does.
I'll try not to give anything away, but just you wait until you find out what the Terrible Awful is. It's an awesome moment. Though she isn't a main character in the book, Mrs. Walters is hilarious and I love her. She is not involved in the Terrible Awful.
The story is interesting and it makes you want to read it all. I had a hard time stopping at the designated points for discussion.
Review-wise, I would have to say that the POV hopping was annoying at times. I appreciate hearing the story from different sides, but it was unnecessary and I feel that it may have detracted from the story. I also feel that the dialect wasn't captured as well as it could have been. It got the point across, but it may have detracted from the story as well. If you can get past those two things, I think you have a high chance of enjoying the book. I sure did.
Here are a couple quotes I loved:
"That's all a grit is, a vehicle. For whatever it is you rather be eating." I had honestly just been wondering about this, and then I read this section and all my questions were answered.
"I wish to God I'd told John Green Dudley he ain't going to hell. That he ain't no sideshow freak cause he like boys. I wish to God I'd filled his ears with good things..."
"Mississippi is like my mother. I am allowed to complain about her all I want, but God help the person who raises an ill word about her around me, unless she is their mother too." I think this goes for all people who have spent a long time in one place. It's how I feel about Minnesota.
Looking back, I realize that these are all Aibileen quotes. Awesome.