The Help

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Published: 2009
Number of pages: 464
Rating: 5 out of 5

I come to this party late, after everyone read this book months ago. Still, it has moved me so much I can’t help but write a few thoughts on it now.

At first glance, one might think that The Help is about the separation between the maids and their ‘ladies’, or about the racism that existed so prevalently in the 1960’s. But, that is only on the surface. Kathryn Stockett explores the separation between husband and wife, regardless of color, as well as the separation between friends because of class or pride, whichever you prefer to call it.

No matter who you are, it hurts to be on the outside. It hurts when you are excluded from a set group, even when you tell yourself you don’t care. It starts with the children in elementary school who wonder why they aren’t included in the playground games, it continues in college when teenagers wonder why they aren’t accepted into a certain house of the Greek system, and it keeps on going right through adulthood when such silly things as neighborhood Bunco games, or sidebars in blogs, can leave one wondering, “Why wasn’t I included?”

Kathryn writes of a universal theme in a timeless way. Her book is pertinent to any reader regardless of race, class or culture. Most of us probably know what it’s like to be In. Yet, I’ll bet more of us have been considered Out at one time or another.

I loved this book for the story. But, I loved it even more for its meaning.

Advertisements

32 thoughts on “The Help”

  1. You know, I've been thinking about this in/out issue for days. I'm transfixed by the thought that in our current society those of Christian faith often are the "outsiders" when it comes to celebrating Christmas. It's puzzling, and ironic and passing strange.When someone like Gerard Vanderleun over at American Digest does a better job of communicating the mystery and awe of Christian faith and the truth of the Gospel than most who are charged with those responsibilities, it's something to ponder. I suppose it's worth remembering that Jesus had a habit of gathering such "outsiders" around him… can't you just imagine Jesus, blogging in shorts and flip-flops?And speaking of outsiders ~ I'd never heard of this book.Now that I have, I may even read it!

    Like

  2. Hmm.. I'm a christian and I for once I didn't feel "out" on Christmas season. I don't see why we'd be treated like one. My copy of RD isn't here yet so I don't quite get your point but I'm eager to read it now!P.S No harm done.This books is intriguing me since it touches a topic that is so commonly found in school. As a student, I don't feel out of place since I have a big group of friends but I could see who are "out", excluded, ignored because they're not cool enough, not pretty enough, handicapped, or special kids. Yet I didn't do anything to make them feel part of the group.

    Like

  3. And I love your refreshing perspective on this book! Excellent, concise review, Bellezza!! This may wind up as my #1 read of the year. Loved it and am now listening to it on audio (read it first time around). These characters will live with me forever.

    Like

  4. This is a book I am soooooo late to the party to I think it might have finished haha. I am going to have to keep my eyes out for this in the sales over the next week! If not I will just have to beg steal or borrow for a copy!

    Like

  5. I'm happy you made it to the party, and appreciate your thoughts. This book will stay with me for a long, long time… it's my favorite audiobook of the year!

    Like

  6. I really enjoyed this book as well. And I agree with you that the book does deal with the idea of being an outsider, which is such a universal theme. There are so many great things about this book, the characters, themes, details, writing and so forth that I am glad you enjoyed it. I can't wait to see what Stockett comes up with next. Cheers!

    Like

  7. I do believe this book is my absolutely favorite read of 2009! I thought the author did an amazing job of writing dialogue from three different points-of-view.

    Like

  8. Hmmm… wish we could edit our comments. My off-the-cuff remarks last night didn't make my point as clearly as I'd hoped.A concrete example or two may help. The Texas State Board of Education proposed removing Christmas from textbooks and substituting Diwali. A nearby town has ceased putting up holiday decorations like stars and bells because they "don't reflect community values". I've watched over 60 years as society's understanding of Christmas and the Church's understanding of Christmas have become increasingly divergent. When I attend worship and hear more about Gaia than Jesus, I do feel a bit of an "outsider". And, I find it ironic that bloggers who certainly aren't "church-y" often do a far better job of evoking the wonders of the faith.In any event – Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a New Year filled with reading delights!

    Like

  9. Linda, you made your first (and second) point completely clear to me, and I agree with you. For a country who was founded on the Christian faith (in God we trust; one nation, under God, individisible with liberty and justice for all; Merry Christmas) I too feel that we have slipped away.It's a complicated issue…I love all of God's children, but I don't love all religions. It's hard for me when our Superintendant called us to celebrate Dwali or Ramadan, I think it was, in our classrooms. If we can't celebrate Christmas, let's not celebrate any of it.But, I don't want to give up my faith. I won't give up my faith. And, I believe Jesus would appear in flipflops with His arms outheld, welcoming all, and giving us new eyes to see instead of my flawed and jaded ones.Let's not erase your comment; I like it just the way it is.

    Like

  10. I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard an interview with the author on NPR, but your review makes me want to drop everything and read it now. I'll definitely make room for it this next year. Thanks for your great review!

    Like

  11. I have been reading all the reviews and telling myself to put this on my list. Now, with your nice and concise review, I've signed up for it at the library. Now I understand what the book is really about. So, thanks.

    Like

  12. This looks like a good and deep read. I think issues of inclusion/exclusion are prevalent in everyone's life and understanding it is one way of overcoming it. I can't wait to read this book, it sounds intriguing.

    Like

  13. It's interesting to me that this review has been so well received. The ones I write from my head are never as compelling as those which come from my heart. I guess this is why I love blogging with you all: for the emotional connection we share over what we read.

    Like

  14. Keep writing reviews from your heart, then, Bellezza; this one is wonderful. I now think of this book as a "must-read"! You're right about blogging also. We do share emotional connections with one another, and over more than mere books! Will be chewing on this post for quite a while. Thank you.

    Like

  15. I have this book on my nightstand — it's in my 'to be read' stack.I look forward to reading it even more after your 'late-to-the-party' but very 'well-dressed' post. To your words, I shout 'bravo.'Janell

    Like

  16. What a wonderful insightful review! I have had this book on my nightstand since it was first published. Many reading obligations later, I picked it for my reading groups book for Jan/Feb, so I am finally going to crack the spine! And you can tell that this review was from the heart! Thank you!

    Like

  17. I really need to read this book! Everyone else has and it gets completely fabulous reviews all around!As for Christians being the outsiders, I hate to be a voice of dissent, as I know you are very proudly Christian, Bellezza, and your blog reflects that in a very considerate way. But personally, I would have to agree with the people who take Christmas decorations off government buildings. I'm Hindu and I don't think Diwali should replace Christmas in schools (especially as it's not celebrated in December EVER), but I do think that everyone's religion should be respected and understood. I would venture a guess that most American schoolchildren, regardless of religion, know much more about Christmas and its celebrations than anyone knows about Diwali or Ramadan, and I think, going forward, that this should not be the case. People should have equal footing in terms of understanding. And just because a country is founded in one faith doesn't mean that it shouldn't adapt to a changing environment. I am proud to be American BECAUSE the country adapts so well, and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are interpreted in ways that pertain to situations that arise long after the country was founded. Perhaps America was founded as a Christian nation, but now it is a melting pot and for that to be a success, we all need to understand each other.Sorry for the very long comment. I hope I didn't offend anyone. I just have very strong views on this sort of thing!

    Like

  18. Aarti ~ Just a thought or two in response to your comments…I spent some years living in Liberia, West Africa. Surrounded by Muslims and followers of traditional religiouns, I certainly was in a numerical minority, and clearly a cultural outsider. Nevertheless, I never FELT myself an outsider in the way I can in this country, today. Obviously, this is a complicated issue and I don't fully understand my own response. But it's clear to me that Christianity itself is often perverted, and used in ways that are not helpful. I suspect the urges of people of other faiths to "tear down the decorations" are rooted in their own experiences of feeling excluded, and that's a shame.Rather than banning expressions of Christian faith at Christmas, I'd prefer the inclusion of all in our public celebrations. Why shouldn't we celebrate the beauties of rangoli, for example – and teach our children about Diwali while we help them appreciate such art? The terrible irony is that while we keep touting diversity, our public life is becoming sterile and boring because our "acceptance" doesn't seem to include the real traditions of other cultures.As for my original comment, about feeling an "outsider" when it comes to Christmas… that really had nothing to do with Christians vis-a-vis the rest of society, and everything to do with my relationship with the Church. Too often, the message being preached has nothing – at all – to do with the Gospel, and that offends me mightily.

    Like

  19. One of the blessings of living in America is the freedom: of speech, of religion, of all the things we hold dear as Americans. I know that I cannot expect my faith, or the faith that our country was founded upon, to be everyone's faith. We have the opportunity here to worship as we see fit, and that is a wonderful thing. My dear class is filled with people of all races: Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White. My church is the same. I am enriched by the cultures around me; I love being invited to Indian homes to eat dinner, I love receiving saris and samosas at Christmas. A part of me deep within my heart misses the emphasis on Christianity that I felt our country had when I was growing up. But, I would never presume to deny the Jews their faith, nor the Muslims, Hindis, Buddhists, etc. theirs. This is America where we can worship as we choose. Perhaps it's best to take all religions out of public places: schools, government buildings, etc. I don't want to have another faith 'forced' on me any more than I want to force Christianity on any one else.As to your final comment, Linda, I would take myself away from a church which didn't preach the Gospel. If it's not Bible based there's far too much room for man's interpretation. I'd be mightily offended, too.

    Like

  20. I just noticed that the Chicago Tribune has it in it's top ten best sellers for this week, at the Number 6 or 7 spot. I suspect it's been a bestseller for a long time: look how many people have bought it and are waiting to read it, or already read it and love it. It's sooooo good.

    Like

  21. For some reason I've not picked up this book yet. I do plan to read it eventually because so many people whose opinions I highly respect have loved it. Maybe it's one of those that I want to wait for the buzz to die down a bit. Sometimes I get rebellious and decide to defer the 'book of the moment'. Not always, but I think I am with this one. Someday . . .

    Like

  22. Hi Meredith, I have been so absent due to personal problems which need to be addressed and the very sad loss of my brother last week from cancer. I hope to be more present in 2010. I loved this book, read it a while ago. It is a must read.xo'sSylvie

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s