Ashley Schroeder's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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's review
Jun 22, 2011

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bookshelves: feminism, politics
Read from June 22 to 28, 2011

"We're just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."

This book is about many, many things: empowerment (especially of women), invisible but indubitable social lines, fear of self and fear of society, knowledge, freedom, growing up, everyday existence. At the end of the day, though, it is about the above quote: being human in a world full of humans. Or, perhaps being a woman in a world full of humans.

I have to say, too, something this book most definitely is NOT. It is not just another worn-out diatribe about race relations in the civil rights-era South. Don't be fooled into thinking it is, and don't be fooled into thinking Stockett has no business writing as a black woman because she's white. Don't give in to that simple, societally-imposed, clear-cut assumption, because you'll miss out on the rest of what this piece has to offer, especially the strong feminist streak. Stockett isn't writing as a black woman or a white woman -- she's writing AS a WOMAN.

Back to the book: The three first-person voices are each distinct and memorable; sometimes I still find myself thinking in Aibileen's silky southern drawl or Minny's fierce battery of words. To the point that I was a little put off by the top-of-the-chapter denotations of the current narrator all throughout the book. I felt it did a disservice to the author's obvious ability to clearly convey who was speaking through nuance, style, and tone. Three characters are developed with whom I fell in love; I don't need to be told my good friends' names each and every time I see them because I simply KNOW them.

Stockett is not one to mince words, and I found her writing to be fairly pedestrian. But, she describes certain specifics (the spider mites on a well-loved Southern bloom, the "asleepness" of a neon bar sign) with a poignancy that directly adds to the driving, almost-activist narrative she is telling. This is a period piece with purpose; a life-imitating-art-imitating-life, semi-autobiographical foray into the lines we create to divide us. The author is subtle and powerful, a weaver of the tiny emotions of everyday living that make us human.

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