There’s a lot to love about summer reading when you work in a library, but the best part is when people stop by to tell you what they’ve been reading. And that’s how, early in June, I found one of my favorite books of the past several years: The Help by Kathryn Stockett. In this historical novel, Skeeter, a young white woman just out of college, convinces Aibileen, a black woman working as a maid, to help gather the stories of “the help” in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s.
NPR ‘s Books We Like selected The Help, but before the NPR buzz — back in early June — Cara, an avid reader participating in our Adult Summer Reading Program, was the only person I knew who’d read it. Cara, who is an events coordinator for the Library, and I often chat about books and I’ve come to trust her recommendations. Once she began talking about the powerful voice in this story — and how it works even though it seems like the premise could be perfectly dreadful — I knew I had to read this book. I took it home that night and finished it the next day.
I would not have read The Help without that personal recommendation, and it seems that it’s still largely a word-of-mouth discovery. “There’s a moment right now for this book,” said Amy Einhorn from Putnam Publishing in an article in USA Today. “It’s the tipping point where people are telling other people that they just need to read this.”
I’m certainly recommending it to people, and reassuring them it’s worth the wait if reserving it through the Library. There’s a lot to talk about in this book, and I’m sure it will be a book group hit when it’s released in trade paperback next year.
Karen Grigsby Bates said in the NPR story, “As black-white relations go, this could be one of the most important pieces of fiction since To Kill a Mockingbird.”