Review: The Help

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I admit, I wasn’t sure how to start this review. Not because I didn’ t know how I felt about this book or because I didn’t like it. No, I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to blog about a book when what I really wanted to do was film a little video of myself, jumping up and down, going ZOMG, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING, FANTASTIC, HOLY CRAP YOU HAVE TO READ IT RIGHT FREAKING NOW. I worried that you, my dear readers, wouldn’t take me seriously anymore.

But that’s seriously the only way to describe how I felt after finishing Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.

I actually finished it last weekend, on Sunday morning to be precise, in the bathroom, in my birthday suit, while the shower ran — and got less hot — because I couldn’t put it down long enough to take a shower.

Let’s review that one more time. I’d done all the things necessary to take a shower, including getting undressed and turning the shower on, with my nose buried in The Help, in hopes that the running water would force me to put it down and bathe myself. It didn’t happen. I stood there in the bathroom, leaning on the counter, and read the last 15 delicious pages, before I could turn my attention to the task of — ya know — getting clean. Ridiculous, I know, but everyone I’ve told that story to, who has also read Stockett’s incredible story of women — black and white, poor and rich, kind and vicious — in 1960s Mississippi can totally relate. They nod and smile knowingly. It’s become a cliche to stay that something is “unputdownable” (thanks, Barnes & Noble!) but I think you’ll agree that, for me at least, The Help certainly qualified.

While The Help has been out for over a year now, and was the third best-selling book of 2009, I’m okay with the fact that I’m just now getting to it. It felt like I discovered it, or rediscovered it, after all the hype had worn off a little bit. The story is absolutely gut-wrenching and hopeful at the same time, and from a purely technical perspective, Stockett’s use of dialect was so spot on that I could almost hear the characters in my head, reciting their individual stories. I suppose that the precise rendering of accent shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that Stockett is from the very town she writes about, but her excellent dialect construction puts all the poor ones I’ve read into a spotlight for their failures. And no I’m not naming names here.

One of the marks of a successful book for me is how invested in the characters I am. From almost the word “GO,” I was rooting for each and every one of these women (well, with one or two notable exceptions — but that was really the point). When they were conflicted, I was conflicted for them. When they succeeded, I cheered. When their hearts were broken — or buoyed , I cried. Buckets and buckets.

It’s not often that I’m so moved by a book, but the time between reading and the time between posting this review is reflective of nothing else than the fact that I’ve been haunted by it. I’ve been savoring it for the last week, and I am just now getting to the point where I want to talk about it. But not really. I kind of want to keep this one to myself, but I won’t.

I rarely make proclamations so bold as to say, OMG YOU MUST READ THIS, but with The Help, that’s exactly what I’m doing. So go read it, ‘kay? For me? I promise you won’t be sorry.

P.S. For those guys out there — like my dad — who think that because this is written about, and from the POV, of women, it’s chick lit, and therefore holds little interest for them, I say, “BOLLUCKS!” (Yes, yes I did). It’s a people story, people. It’s good for everyone. Trust me. I mean, it’s replacing Two Rivers on mySwiss Army 10 for goodness sakes!

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Comments

  1. So it looks like I reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaly should get around to this.

  2. Ah, crap – this really complicates things. A couple weeks ago, I asked one of my good friends who had just finished The Help whether she thought I’d like it. She sort of sneered, and the proceeded to totally trash it – “too ‘precious,’ too cliche, and besides, not at all for guys.” What the hell do I do now?

    • I think you should read the first 50 pages or so and if it hooks you, great; if not, move on. But I think you should make up your own mind. But she’s the first person I’ve heard who didn’t like it, if that means anything.

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