"Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and the cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning."
Jackson, Mississippi, August, 1962
When Skeeter returns from college to her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, she begins to see her world in a new light. She and three other women (Miss Leefolt, Miss Hilly, and Hilly's mother, Miss Walters) meet every week for bridge club at Miss Leefolt's house. Aibileen, the Leefolts' black maid, and Minny, her best friend, work hard every day for the "white folks". However, things are heating up in the South. While Skeeter was raised to treat blacks as second class, she notices her friends and family actually treating them even less than that. As Skeeter's mother attempts to marry her off to any man with money who will take her, and the maids continue in their loyal service, Skeeter decides to take a bold step in changing the staus quo. Disgusted with the attitudes and behavior of her so-called friends, Skeeter defies convention and pursues a course that will forever alter the city of Jackson and the way of life that all its residents have come to recognize, and in many cases, embrace.
This is one of those books that I didn't want to put down. The characters are delightful. I fell in love with Minny, who couldn't hold her tongue and lost many jobs as a result. Aibileen, as well, is very likable. I wish I had listened to this book on CD. Someone told me that listening to it was quite a wonderful experience, because then you can hear the accents and you get more of a feel for that place and time period.
I enjoyed reading of many things I remember from my childhood, such as Crisco ("Ain't just for frying. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair, like gum?...Spread this on a baby's bottom, you won't even know what diaper rash is....I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on they husband's scaly feet...Clean the goo from a price tag, take the squeak out a door hinge. Lights get cut off, stick a wick in it and burn it like a candle."), Nehi drink, Dr. Scholl shoes, and the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. I thought I was back in the movie "Driving Miss Daisy". Ms. Stockett knows how to draw the reader into the setting.
I was born in the South in the 60's. It was the time of John Kennedy, the KKK, and Martin Luther King. It was a time of great conflict and struggle for the black people. I am sad and embarrassed that they suffered physically and emotionally because of the ignorance and cruelty of so many. This book confronts those prejudices that made the 60's such a hard time for a multitude of good people. I am thankful that Ms. Stockett wrote it and wrote it well.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
"She's wearing a tight red sweater and a red skirt and enough makeup to scare a hooker."
"I intend to stay on her like hair on soap."
"Can't afford no air conditioning. Them things eat current like a boll weevil on cotton."
"She's dressed in a white sweater so tight it'd make a hooker look holy."
"I might as well be Little Stevie Wonder I am so blinded by that dress. Hot pink and silver sequins glitter from her extra-large boobies all the way to her hot pink toes."
The Help is a remarkable novel. I have read many books set in the South during the 60's, but never one that has had me so captivated. Kathryn Stockett has written a masterpiece.