WOW! What a book!
This book is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. I knew right from the start that I was going to be sad when I came to the end. The characters are wonderful, although there is a couple I’d like to knock on the head. This is writing at its best. I can picture everyone in the book, from the black maids talking in the kitchen, or the privileged white ladies at their benefits.
This book is about diversity and segregation in the south in the 1960’s, particularly Mississippi. The reader gets a look into the daily lives of the colored ladies who keep house and raise the kids for the white people. Although this is a serious story and there are some awful moments in this book, there is enough humor to keep the reader chuckling throughout. It was definitely hard to put this book down each night and go to bed.
I grew up in the South during this time, and can relate to all the issues in the book. The dialogue is wonderful and the author accurately portrays the food and the weather, bringing back many memories for me.
I was interested in the lives of all the maids in the book and the awful conditions they had to endure in that time of great civil unrest. The maids are desperate as they tolerate abuse from the white ladies they work for, who ultimately hold their fate in their hands. I wanted to cry when I see them wrongly accused for stealing, and then fired because if it. There are times when false rumors are spread too, making it impossible for the maid to find other work.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny are the main characters in this book. I loved each of these unique women, who had enough guts to stand up and try to change the terrible conditions that existed in those days.
Ambitious Skeeter wants to become a writer, much to her mother’s disgust. Her mother wants to see her married and taking her place in white society when she comes home from college. Skeeter befriends the maids, kind-hearted Aibilene and sassy Minny, who gradually begin to trust her, after she has planted the idea of a book project to shed light on the working conditions for maids in Mississippi. More maids jump onboard the book project, as black people are beaten and killed in their town. They all take a risk and that risk comes with a price.
Hilly, the white Queen Bee you love to hate adds fuel to the fire by constantly spreading her message that colored folks carry diseases. She questions their hygiene, although she allows her own maid in the kitchen to cook all the food, take care of the kids, and clean the house. Hilly goes on a toilet campaign to make sure every white household in Jackson has a toilet for the colored help. This crusade only spurs Skeeter and the maids on to tell their story, hoping the book will be published and that they will remain anonymous, so as not to bring anymore ill will down on themselves. At the same time, they are hoping that conditions will change and people will look deeper than the color of someone’s skin.
Not all the white people treated the maids badly, although most did. We see how strange it was growing up in the south in those days when Minny goes to work for Celia Foote, the “white trash,” who allows her to sit at the table, drink coffee, and eat with her. They really begin to care for each other when Minny sees she is different from the many employers she’s had in the past.
There was never a dull moment. I really LOVED this book and want to read it again. I checked this copy out of the library, but I will now buy my own copy. What a great debut novel. I hope Kathryn Stockett writes a sequel.