I read "The Help" after having it highly recommended by several people I know, and after noting that the reviews for it are generally good. After havi...moreI read "The Help" after having it highly recommended by several people I know, and after noting that the reviews for it are generally good. After having read the book, I think my expectations were too high for it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book and am glad to have read it, but I don't think it's all that.
Quick plot synopsis: It's the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi. Racial tension exists. High(ish) society white women treat their black domestic help with various degrees of respect. One young white lady decides to write a book about the relationship between the white women and the help. This is not initially received as a good idea. She has a hard time getting the help agreeing to tell real stories about their experiences, because they are afraid they will be fired, hurt, and/or killed. Eventually, she gains trust and cooperation. The book is written.
What I thought: When I finished reading it, I wished that I had read the book they were writing in the book instead of the story of writing that book. While the characters are putting the book together, the reader gets some insight into some of those stories, and they sounded much more interesting than the story of writing the book.
Is the story believable? Probably. I don't know, I was born in 1972 and had more exposure to race issues from closer to an "inner city" perspective than to a "rural" perspective. Was it a compelling story? Yes. Were the characters believable and interesting? Mostly.
What the book did right: The racial tension was appropriate and obvious throughout the entire book. The pacing was nice -- I was never bored reading it, and I never thought it left me behind. Telling the story from multiple 1st person points of view was awesome. I love how the author told the story in chronological order, but switched point of view every few scenes. The voices were distinctly different and believable. It was nice to be able to get in the head of several of the characters as the story progressed.
Where the book could have been improved: My biggest complaint is that the book wants to think it's a commentary on race relations, but it confuses the issue by throwing in some class tension in the mix. The main tension is between the white high(ish) society women and their domestic help. But they also have tension with a "white trash" lady. The whole situation seems pretty realistic, but the underlying tension gets terribly confusing because it's not explored well enough. The "white trash" storyline adds a lot to the story, especially showing that it's not as simple as black and white (haha). But it falls flat in my eyes. Also, like I already mentioned, I would have enjoyed more stories about the actual relations between the employer and employees.
Overall recommendation: It's good, but it's not all that.(less)
This book has been recommended to me several times over the past few years. I've always been interested in checking it out, so I added it to my librar...moreThis book has been recommended to me several times over the past few years. I've always been interested in checking it out, so I added it to my library hold request list and when it became available, I jumped on it.
The first thing I'll point out is that the book is really only about half as long as the Kindle progress bar indicates it is. About halfway through, I found myself surprised to be reading the Epilogue, even more surprised when the Epilogue wasn't very long. It turns out that the second half of the book was devoted to Q&A with the authors, reprinting several newspaper columns by the authors, reprinting a book review, and a very extensive index of searchable terms specifically formatted to be useful in an eBook. When I had finished the book, most of the supplemental material wasn't interesting to me (the review and columns pretty much rehashed a lot of the info that was in the main text, e.g.). So all in all, it turned out to be a quicker read than I expected.
The book itself presents what I'd classify as "pop economics" (and I don't think I'm alone in that classification). That is, the authors use economic theories to address questions that are more interesting than what economics is usually used to address, and they do so in a non-threatening, non-academic fashion. For example, they present a case study related to drug trafficking to explore why if drug dealing is such a lucrative business, drug dealers still live with their mothers. One of the most "in your face" theories they present deals with how legalized abortion in the US in the 1970s is the primary cause for the dramatic decrease in crime in the US in the 1990s. The way the authors took outlandish and bizarre questions, broke them down into pieces that could be reasonably studied, and followed the trail wherever it led them made for compelling reading. I was especially intrigued by the chapter dealing with cheating, where they examined how teachers can (and do) cheat for their students on standardized tests and how cheating is apparently rampant in the sport of sumo wrestling.
More than anything, this book shows that it's worth actually taking the time to think about things, and to think about them in unconventional manners. Ask questions, don't necessarily accept that the questions can't be answered, or accept the standard pat answers. But instead, really think about the questions and explore all sorts of possible solutions. I'm not an economist, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time thinking about questions like they ones explored in this book. But I do spend a lot of time in the course of my job thinking about all sorts of questions that can stand to be examined in unconventional ways. So in addition to being an enjoyable read, this is the kind of book that helps me think about the way I think. I like that.
Should you read this book? Absolutely. The case studies are generally interesting, no matter what field of work you are in. Additionally, the writing style is compelling, keeping what could otherwise be tedious material fresh and fun to read.(less)
The plot started out slow, but picked up by the end of the 2nd chapter. By the end of the book, the characters and lore surrounding the guns were flus...moreThe plot started out slow, but picked up by the end of the 2nd chapter. By the end of the book, the characters and lore surrounding the guns were flushed out enough to be interesting. The story caps itself off nicely, while leaving great opportunities to continue future stories within the universe created by the author. I also enjoyed the art very much.(less)
This was a very quick read, which I appreciated. Godin is inspirational and motivational in his writing. The entire book focuses on one idea: recogniz...moreThis was a very quick read, which I appreciated. Godin is inspirational and motivational in his writing. The entire book focuses on one idea: recognizing when your efforts are going to be worth it and either sticking or quitting depending on whether it's worth it. There are lots of examples that make what he's talking about more real.
It's the kind of book that when you're done reading it, you think it's simple common sense. But when you look around, you realize that no one is employing the common sense that Godin describes. The book is challenging me to re-examine my priorities, look at what I'm spending my time, effort, and money on, and decide what I need to quit, what I need to stick with, and what I need to tweak.
The copy I read was borrowed from a friend, but I might actually buy my own copy so I can reread it every now and then. As quick as it is to read, it's the kind of book that will probably bear well on multiple readings over time.(less)