The Help Book By Kathryn Stockett (Summary - Review - Book Order)

The Help is a 2009 novel by American author Kathryn Stockett. The story is about African-Americans working in white homes in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s.

A USA Today article called it one of the "summer dream successes." An early review in The New York Times points to the "affection and intimacy of Stockett buried beneath seemingly more impersonal domestic connections" and says the book is a "push-a-button novel, which will soon be very popular." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said about the book: "This heartbreaking story is an impressive debut of a gifted talent."

Stockett began writing the novel, his first, after the September 11 attacks. It took five years to complete it and was rejected by 60 literary agents, over a period of three years, before Agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent Stockett. The Help has been published since then in 35 countries and three languages. In August 2011, he had sold seven million copies in print and audiobook editions, and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

The audiobook version of the Help is narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell. Spencer was the original inspiration of Stockett for the character of Minny, and also plays in the film adaptation.

Author Kathryn Stockett
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Penguin Books
Publication date
February 10, 2009
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 524
ISBN 0-399-15534-1
813/.6 22 ,
LC Class PS3619.T636 H45 2009

The Help was established in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, and is mainly explained from the first person perspective of three women: Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson, and Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan. Aibileen is a maid who takes care of children and cleans. His own 24-year-old son, Treelore, died from an accident at work. In the story, she is taking care of the Leefolt family and taking care of her baby, Mae Mobley. Minny is Aibileen's friend who often tells her employers what she thinks of them, which causes her to be fired from nineteen jobs. Minny's most recent employer was Mrs. Walters, mother of Hilly Holbrook.

Skeeter is the daughter of a white family that owns a cotton farm on the outskirts of Jackson. Many of the field hands and domestic help are African-American. Skeeter just returned home after graduating from the University of Mississippi and wants to become a writer. Skeeter's mother wants him to marry and thinks her title is just a nice piece of paper. Skeeter is curious about the disappearance of Constantine, his maid who raised and cared for her. Constantine had written to Skeeter while he was away from home in college saying it had been a big surprise when he was waiting for her. Skeeter's mother tells him that Constantine resigned and went to live with relatives in Chicago. Skeeter does not believe that Constantine would leave her like that; She knows something is wrong and believes that the information will eventually come out. Everyone Skeeter asks about the unexpected disappearance of Constantine pretends that it never happened and avoids giving him real answers.

The life that Constantine led while helping the Phelan family leads Skeeter to realize that her friends' maids are treated in a very different way from the way white employees are treated. She decides (with the help of an editor) that she wants to reveal the truth about being a maiden of color in Mississippi. Skeeter struggles to communicate with the maids and gain their trust. The dangers of writing a book about African-Americans speaking in the South in the early 1960s constantly hover over the three women.

Finally, Skeeter gains Aibileen's trust through a friendship that develops, while Aibileen helps Skeeter write a column of home tips for the local newspaper. Skeeter accepted the job to write the column as a springboard to becoming a writer/editor, as suggested by Elaine Stein, publisher of Harper & Row, although she does not know anything about cleaning or caring for a house since that is the Domain exclusive of 'The help'. The irony of this is not lost on Skeeter, and finally, he offers to pay Aibileen for the time and experience he received from her.

Elaine Stein had also suggested to Skeeter that he find a topic to write about that he could devote himself to and be passionate about. Skeeter realizes that he wants to expose to the world in the form of a book the deplorable conditions that the southern servants endure to barely survive. Unfortunately, such exposure is a dangerous proposition, not only for Skeeter but for any maid who agrees to help her. Aibileen finally agrees to tell her story. Minny, despite her distrust of whites, finally agrees too, but she and Aibileen can not convince others to tell their stories. Skeeter investigates several laws that govern what blacks still can and can not do in Mississippi, and his growing opposition to the racial order causes him to be rejected by his social circle.

Yule May, Hilly's maid, is arrested for stealing one of Hilly's rings to pay for her twin children's college tuition after Hilly refused to lend the money. The other maids decide that they are willing to risk their jobs and their safety and join the book project.

Therefore, the goal of the book is the collaborative project between the white Skeeter and the "colored" help that fights and exploits, who together are writing a book of true stories about their experiences as "help" for white women of Jackson. Not all stories are negative, and some describe beautiful, generous, loving and kind events; While others are cruel and even brutal. The book, titled "Help" is finally published, and the final chapters of "The Help"describes the consequences of the appearance of the book in Jackson.

In a page change that brings new resonance to the moral issues involved, Stockett tells the story of a social awakening seen from both sides of the American racial divide.

About the Author
Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and creative writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for sixteen years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter.

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