I liked Kathryn Stockett’s The Help—it is undeniably engrossing and a fairly quick read. The characters are fleshed out with distinctive personalities and individual voices, historical references help ground the story (however chronologically inexact), and detailed locations transport the reader to the racially charged deep south of the 1960s. It is a story of women’s relationships, social acceptance, and cultural progression. However, that is what it ultimately is: a story, a period piece. I have seen complaints that the character portrayals were irresponsible of the author, or disrespectful, and perhaps they were… that can be for each reader to decide for themselves. But I didn’t have the feeling she set out to create more than she did: an entertaining novel loosely based on her childhood experiences. It is not a groundbreaking examination on race relations and civil rights, and that’s okay. I also admittedly didn’t notice the inconsistency of accents while I was reading (I’m from the northern Midwest, so I don’t hear a southern drawl, or any distinct accent, too naturally in my head), although after finishing and thinking about it I do recognize this is flaw in the book. Still, it doesn’t bother me. I didn’t take the story too seriously, but it is important to remember the low points in our country’s history and reflect on change for the better.
Read from January 16 to February 11, 2012.