Skeeter Phelan has just graduated from college and has returned to her home in the heart of the 1960’s Mississippi. Even with a degree and dreams of becoming a writer, Skeeter’s still expected to settle down and get married like every other girl in town. She was looking foreword to seeing Constantine, the maid who helped raise her, but found out, rather unpleasantly, that Constantine had left mysteriously without a word.
Aibileen, a black maid, has had a life filled with raising white children. Her life is a struggle and the death of her only son left a bitter seed in her heart. Minny, Aibileen’s friend, isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Even though she’s known for being the best cook in town, she continually finds herself out of a job for talking back.
These three unlikely women come together to start a project that’s never been seen before in the 1960’s Mississippi. They tell the story of what it’s like to be a black woman in the South and the consequences of speaking out.
I actually started this book several years ago, but never finished it. At the time I had a hard time reading the language and ended up watching the movie first since it was easier to listen to them speak. I finally decided to try again and I’m so glad that I did. This time, I had an easier time of reading it. I thought that Stockett chose three women who could represent what happened during the civil rights movements. We have a white girl who wants to know the story of the people she loved so well, we have a woman who is kind hearted and loving but still gets short changed by the system even if it’s subtle. And then we have an outspoken woman who rebels against what’s happening to her and we see the obvious consequences of the Jim Crow south.
I think this is a book that should be required reading for everyone. It shows us a side of the ’60’s that is rarely talked about, that of the help in white people’s homes. It tells us of the white people who actually wanted to help but didn’t know how to. It shows us how spiteful, hurt, and angry people can be. They take the laws and use them to spite those they don’t like or prejudice against. And it shows us perseverance and hope.
The ending isn’t quite the happiness that I would’ve expected. There were some good things that happened, like Skeeter getting the job of her dreams and Minny moving out of her abusive home and getting a steady job at Mrs. Foote’s home, but Aibileen could’ve gotten more, she deserved it. I assume that the book is being realistic to what happened, that not everyone got good results for speaking out, but I’m always one that hopes for a happy ending, even when I know it can’t be completely happy.
Overall Impression: A good depiction of the struggles of race relations in the South, with warm, memorable characters that kept the story engaging.