Definitely the best book I have read this year is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This is an excellent debut novel written by a Mississippian about her home town of Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960′s civil rights unrest. There is such a deep history to the black/white relationships in the homes of the south. During this time period black maids were employed in many of the homes of white people, even those that struggled with money issues. These women had distinct social lines drawn, however relationships between the help and their employers were as different as all people are unique.
Miss Skeeter Phelan has recently graduated form Ole Miss and come home to fulfill her dreams of becoming a writer and her mother’s dream of marriage to the correct man. She is encouraged to find a story to write that has never been done before when communicating with a New York editor. After hearing of an iniative that every household should have a separate bathroom for their colored help so the families won’t be exposed to diseases spread by the coloreds, Skeeter develops an idea of interviewing the black maids about their feelings toward serving white families. Through the struggle interviewing and secretly writing these stories we meet wonderful characters. Abileen specializes in childcare and is lovingly raising her 17th child in the household of a white woman that doesn’t have an idea how to love her own daughter. Minny is a young, scrappy and rebellious cook that has been fired from a host of homes for talking back. They reluctantly begin sharing their thoughts with Skeeter while terrified about the hurt that could result if the truth gets out about the people represented.
Stockett has written a deeply moving book that shows the complex rainbow of relationships between the races of hate, mistrust and apathy but also love, companionship and dependence. It is a wonderful story that continues to evoke thoughts and emotions long after the end.