Recently my great-great-aunt pulled a book out and said, “You’ve got to read it!”
That book was Kathryn Stockett’s New York Time’s Best Seller, The Help. So I agreed to give it a go.
Now, I saw the film when it came out back in 2011 without having read the book (not my usual habit) because my Mamma had read the book and filled me in on the main premise of the book. So I came at the book with a little different perspective than normal, especially since I loved the movie.
Thankfully, my Mamma was able to recommend that I skip pages 360-363 because they were inappropriate. I would recommend the same, though the pages might be a little different if you read the hardcover or movie tie-in editions.
“And then she say it, just like I need her to. ‘You is kind,” she say, “you is smart. You is important.'”
The Help is the first book I ever remember reading that was written through the eyes of three women– Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter.
Set in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, the book follows the ups and downs of these three women’s lives and relationships. Unusual relationships, too, as Aibileen and Minny are black “help” and Skeeter is a young, white woman who just returned from Jackson after graduating from Ole Miss.
“Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision…You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”
Personally, I could relate strongly with Eugenia Phelan, known as “Skeeter” throughout the book, the most. She was the slightly clumsy, bookish, sensitive, and dreamy aspiring writer, and arguably the main character of the novel. It is Skeeter’s dream that sets the plot of the story: to be a writer and to write about something real, something important. And so Skeeter risks everything- friendship, marriage, career- in order to make a difference in her culture.
While I enjoyed the story very much, and several characters were very religious, I did find one passage found on pages 336-337 particularly disturbing:
“When he start playing dress-up in his sister’s Jewel Taylor twirl skirts and wearing Chanel No. 5, we all get a little concern… His daddy would take him to the garage and whip him with a rubber hose-pipe trying to beat the girl out a that boy…I wish to God I’d told John Green Dudley he ain’t going to hell. That he ain’t no sideshow freak cause he likes boys.”
First of all, I have a hard time seeing that any black woman in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1940’s or 1960’s would be a supporter of homosexuality. But more than that, God says in Leviticus 18:22 that homosexuality is a sin: “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.”
And for those who object that only the “Old” Testament condemns homosexuality, read on. 1 Corinthians 6 says, “Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”
“All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”
The theme that came across strongest in the book was this one- that there really aren’t any “lines” between people. Not between blacks and whites, not between rich and poor. We are all people made in the image of God, made with a purpose. I think Skeeter said it best:
“Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.“
Overall, I enjoyed the book, getting a better view of what it was like to live in Mississippi in the 1960’s. And while I appreciated the Christian overtones throughout the book, the author’s bias clearly showed through in her support of homosexuality. One final warning, there is also a large amount of foul language, including taking the Lord’s name in vain, in the book. I would give The Help a “C”.
Have you read The Help? If so, what are your thoughts?