The Help The backstory is cringeworthy: A young, white first-time author — inspired by her own childhood relationship with her family maid in Jackson, Miss. — sets… The Help The backstory is cringeworthy: A young, white first-time author — inspired by her own childhood relationship with her family maid in Jackson, Miss. — sets… 2009-02-10 Fiction History Putnam
Book Review

The Help (2009)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: Feb 10, 2009; Writer: Kathryn Stockett; Genres: Fiction, History; Publisher: Putnam

The backstory is cringeworthy: A young, white first-time author — inspired by her own childhood relationship with her family maid in Jackson, Miss. — sets out to write a novel from the point of view of black maids in the midst of the civil rights era. Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, The Help, could have turned out goofily earnest or shamefully offensive. Instead, it's graceful and real, a compulsively readable story of three women who watch the Mississippi ground shifting 
beneath their feet as the words of men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Bob Dylan pervade their genteel town.

And what women Stockett has conjured up. In a shrewd move, one of her characters is like the author's '60s-era doppelgänger. Skeeter, a white Ole Miss graduate whose mother frets over her daughter's frizzy hair and ringless wedding finger, wants to write something with more substance than her piddly housecleaning-advice column 
at the Jackson Journal. Buoyed by a chance conversation with a steely New York book editor, she decides to 
anonymously record the experiences of black maids, paid to raise and nurture other people's children while 
their employers insist they use a separate bathroom — preferably one outside the house. ''Everyone knows 
 how we white people feel [about] the glorified Mammy figure who dedicates her whole life to a white family,'' Skeeter tells her editor. ''But no one ever asked Mammy how she felt about it.''

If Skeeter is one to root for, the muscle and heart of the book belong to the maids Aibileen and Minny, tough, funny, vulnerable, conflicted women who know they are risking everything by sharing their stories with a skinny, naive white woman. Stockett jumps effortlessly between her women's voices. She has created a world 
of memorable supporting characters — from the bitch 
in the Junior League to Skeeter's oilman suitor — to
 surround them. When folks at your book club wonder what to read next month, go on and pitch this wholly 
satisfying novel with confidence. A–

Originally posted Feb 11, 2009 Published in issue #1035 Feb 20, 2009 Order article reprints