26 March 2010
Do you remember the last time you read a book so good you couldn't put it down, you couldn't wait for the next 10-minute break to read a little more, you dreamt about the characters, worried all day about what might happen next? I do. It was yesterday. I've spent the last five nights in a row reading until long past midnight, despite the knowledge the alarm would wake me up early the next morning for work. It didn't matter. I had to find out what was going to happen!
The Help, Kathryn Stockett's first novel, follows the lives of three women in Jackson, Mississippi, during the beginnings of the civil rights movement. Two women are black maids in white households, one is a white woman whose eyes are being opened to the racial tensions and prejudices she's grown up with, yet never seen. As these three women go about their daily lives, they are drawn together by an inexplicable need to tell their stories, to enlighten those around them, to change things, despite the dangers that might befall them if they do.
This is a spectacularly well-written novel. I found no whiplash when switching between narrators (each couple of chapters is told by one of the three protagonists). Their stories are engaging, and before I knew it, I was completely drawn into their world of southern propriety, feeling the tension between what's proper, what's always been, and what could be. I found my heart breaking for all three of these women and the challenges they face, and cheering them each on to victory in their individual struggles. I want to be friends with these women.
I'm not sure there's a place and time further from my own than Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. But Ms. Stockett has taken me there, immersed me in it, and I feel like I have a knowledge I didn't have before, a compassion I didn't know I needed. I finished the book last night, at midnight, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.
Read it. Its fabulous. Just be sure you don't have to get up early the next morning ...
Posted by hjw at 8:45 AM