I think I am one of the last people I know to read this book ---- Kathryn Stockett's The Help.
Over the last six months so many people, who know I love to read, have asked me, "Have you read The Help?"
Each time I had to answer, "Uh, no."
"Oh, you have to read it. It's the best book."
"If you were raised in the South, you have to read it."
"As much as you like to read? You haven't read it?"
Yes, I do like to read, but I am hardly a reader of current best sellers. I actually tend to read books a lot later than others. My library used to have a "new" book section, which is where I found little sleepers like Waiting by Ha Jin or The Black Flower by Howard Bahr, a few weeks after they were released, but my library either stopped doing that or they moved it.
I remember when I was in high school everyone I knew practically went to the theater to see the 1970 movie Love Story, a tear-jerker, based on the novel by Erich Segal, and starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw.
I didn't go to the movies much, and I believe it was rated R, and my parents were vigilant about ratings and movies. So, I didn't see it till much later -- how much later, I dunno, but later.
All my friends told me that I needed to see it... that I had to see it -- that it was the best movie. They squealed about it -- talked about it -- and raved about how it was so good.
"I cried so hard!"
"I hope a man cares about me like that."
"It's to die for."
[no pun intended, I hope]
I finally watched it -- the whole thing -- and did not shed a tear. I felt like the worst teenage girl in America. In fact, I didn't really like it.
What? Not bawl my eyes out at Love Story?
Not love it?
It's not that the movie was not sad, but I think the "hype" by the media, the reviews, and my friends built it up for me -- so that all I felt about it -- was anti-climatic. It was sad -- but, well, it was saccharine sad. I don't do saccharine sad -- it makes me crazy.
I liked the novel The Help, but I find more wrong with it than right.
1. Lawd, the stereotypes....
2. Lawd, the love story...
3. Lawd, the "light" touch of Southern life...
4. Lawd, the good white girl....
5. Lawd, the black domestics...
6. Lawd, the nice, tidy ending...
Just lawd. At least my saying "Lawd" is one of the favorite words of my girlfriend out of Alabama.
In this novel, Stockett sets her story in Jackson, Mississippi, from 1962 to 1964, and tells the story of a wanna-be writer, Skeeter [Eugenia] Phelan, who comes home, after graduating from Ole Miss, and determines that she's just itching to do something other than play bridge, wait to get married (even though she has no man in sight), and go to Junior League meetings.
After hearing her best friend, Miss Hilly, complain about the black maid at one friend's house not having her own "potty" separate from the white's, Miss Skeeter gets a bee in her bonnet to write about something important. I mean, come on -- Skeeter? Miss Hilly? Lawd.
What Skeeter manages to do is convince the black domestics that she knows to tell their stories about being black in Mississippi and doing for "white folks." Aibileen and Minny agree to tell Miss Skeeter their story in secret in order to "change things 'round here."
Aibileen, sweet-natured and maternal, is a direct contrast to Minny, who's angry and a back talker. From their perspective comes their stories.... all of them -- including Skeeter's who becomes black-listed by her friends when controversial pamphlets are accidentally discovered in her satchel by Miss Hilly, looking for the Junior League newsletter.
There are many, I'm sure, who enjoyed this book and thought it was "wonderful," but I found it lacking --
I'm kind of sorry I didn't love it. It makes me feel un-Southern. I hope I get bonus points for liking it.