Mj's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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's review
Jan 25, 15

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, female-author, 2011
Read in April, 2011

I rated The Help 5 stars and want to share my rationale and the memories that still resonate with me.

I was particularly impressed with the character development and loved / not-so-loved the characters themselves. The author described the snotty snobs and rampant racists so well that my body stiffened up and I could viscerally feel my blood pressure rise along with my anger. I felt sadness and heartache for the numerous characters suffering loneliness, losses and hurtfulness. However my predominant memories and feelings are my fondness for the feisty, female heroines. While each wanted personal friendship and to fit in as much as anyone, each woman exposed themselves to the risks and repercussions of bigotry and chose the highest road to speak, name and write their truth. They were very brave; fearful but purposely fearless women, who defied the norms to do what their hearts knew was right.

I found this book to be very inspirational and motivating in showing me how much a few focussed individuals could accomplish. It was tense at times, happy at times, sad and humourous at other times. The book ran the full gamut of human emotions and overall I felt it was a great blend of story and characters that would appeal to a wide readership for its story line and characters and at the same time inform readers about what went on in Mississippi in the 1960’s. I don’t consider this mass appeal to be a negative. I consider it a huge plus in raising awareness.

Some Goodreads reviewers have criticized the book as being simplistic, naïve and a Pollyanna portrayal of racism and discrimination at the time. Others have been critical because they think that just by reading the book, too many readers have salved their conscience with regards to pervasive racism. I don’t see it that way. I didn’t expect and am not critiquing this book from an historical perspective – expecting that the book should have covered all the nitty, gritty details of the time in total accuracy. I am reviewing this book as a work of fiction set in an historical period to tell a story that “could have” happened at the time in order to expose as many people as possible to the racism, prejudice and lifestyle realities in the 1960’s in the deep south where slavery and bigotry had existed for so long that racism had become very systemic and ingrained in the culture. I thought the author did a good job of portraying how very different lives were for whites and blacks at a time, not that long ago, and by using a fictional story she appealed to a very wide audience - a good choice in my opinion. It was a big picture book with a very big and big picture message. I thought the author was true to the period and wrote a very inspirational story about how one or a few individuals can make a huge difference if they have courage to remain true to themselves and stand up for justice. I haven’t seen the movie but was glad to see it made so that the information and message could reach an even wider audience. The Help is definitely a 5 star book worth reading.

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