Thursday, November 3, 2011
Talk about a book you just can't put down! The Help has been sweeping all sorts of book clubs and bestseller lists for a while now. I have to admit, I had absolutely zero interest until I saw the movie trailer. After that, I was intrigued by the fact it seemed to be more humorous than serious. I had almost forgotten about it by the time it popped up as available for me from my library, but five minutes in, I was hooked.
I normally absolutely abhor books that have some sort of propaganda or underlying message throughout. Not only are they usually incredibly boring, but they also have a tendency to be insanely preachy. This book, wasn't. It was funny, lighthearted, and heartwarming, and still addressed the difficult topic, all without falling into a lecturing tone. I didn't end the book feeling as though I should be filled with guilty, rather, I felt entertained, and grateful that the topic was brought up in my mind.
I'm not even going to pretend that race has ever been at the forefront of my mind. While I did grow up in a predominantly white town, throughout the years, I've had just as many, if not more non-white friends than white. I just never really noticed it- it took me until I was thirteen years old to realize that my best friend since the age of eight was Asian. It took me even longer to realize she was Buddhist, even though she had a shrine in the house I spent every weekend in.
Observant, I am not.
I'm just so tired of books that set out to make you feel guilty. I'm tired of novels that have a message. Don't cheat on your husband, you'll die a miserable death. Don't pick on the unpopular kids, you'll wind up a loser later in life. Don't be jealous of your best friend, they'll wind up dying and you'll feel guilty. And so on. This book managed to avoid that pitfall by being a story about women. It wasn't really a story about the treatment discrepancies, it was about these women and their lives. It was thoroughly engaging, and I kept laughing out loud and crying as the scenes changed. I was utterly wrapped up in the characters lives as soon as they were introduced. They all had personality depths that brought them from a cliche to a dynamic character.
I do think that I would have liked this book less if I had actually read it, rather than listen to it. The narrators of the audiobook were absolutely fabulous, and now I keep catching myself let out my little southern twang the way I do after talking to someone with a serious accent. The majority of the book was written in dialect, and that would have frustrated me to no end having to actually see it, but listening to it wasn't bad at all. It added an additional level to the characters that just pulled me into their stories further.
The one small criticism that I have for this book is that Minny and Celia were by far more enthralling than Aibileen and Skeeter, yet they had drastically smaller parts in the book. Celia's struggles of trying so hard to fit in, and yet still remaining an outsider really stuck with me. When the scene came up where she lost her baby, I was alternating between hysterical sobs as that is my greatest fear ever and horrified laughter at Minny's reactions. Minny was a breath of fresh air in the novel whenever Aibileen and Skeeter grew too sentimental and idealistic. Her frank humor brought the novel to a new level, and her final decision that forced her to grow as a character at the end made my chest hurt with sadness at what she had been through. I only wish that Celia's storyline was finished properly. While the ending with Johnny was meaningful, I think she could have brought yet another dimension to the novel if she had been given a greater part- especially countered with Minny's descriptions of her and her actions.
All in all, I absolutely adored this book. It's definitely one of those that sticks with you for a while. It probably didn't hurt that I wound up listening to it essentially all of yesterday and last night (and a good portion of today as well... did I mention that it only took me two days to finish?). I really, truly enjoyed it and was sad to see it end, but I know I'll be reflecting on it for weeks to come.