Book Review by Haleemah Hanware
The Help tells the story of African American maids raising white children in Mississippi in the 1960’s. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a 22 year old graduate from Ole Miss, who returns to her parents plantation only to realise that her beloved nanny and confidante, Constantine, has left them.
Skeeter does not believe that Constantine left by choice, and vows to find out why she left. Skeeter has always had a passion for writing and finds solace in writing a housekeeping column called “Miss Myrna” for the Jackson Journal.
Aibileen works tirelessly for the Leefolt family, raising their daughter Mae Mowbly, but she is still reeling from the death of her own son, who died because his white employers neglected to get him to hospital on time. Aibileen and Skeeter forge a bond when Aibileen starts helping Skeeter with her Miss Myrna column. Skeeter also believes that Aibileen can tell her the truth about why Constntine left. When Skeeter recieves a letter from a New York publishing agency asking her to write a book from the perspective of the help, Aibileen agrees to assist Skeeter and together they convince the maids of Jackson to narrate their experiences of working for white socialites.
Minny is known for being one of the best cooks in town, and for always speaking her mind. When she is fired by Hilly, Skeeter’s best friend, she decides to assist Aibileen and Skeeter in their quest to expose the true prejudices of racism that plague the town of Jackson.
Skeeter’s book is set in the fictious town of Niceville, and the author remains anonymous. It soon becomes a bestseller and the women of Jackson start recognizing themselves in the book’s characters. The book forces the community of Jackson to address the long standing issues of laws, customs and racism.
The New York Times writes that The Help epitomises racial insults and quiet bravery in 1960’s Mississippi. It is a heartwarming tale of loyalty and loss, but more so it is a tale of triumph against injustice, and the power of the written word.