‘The Help’ reaches its tipping point

the help book coverThere’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.”

4 thoughts on “‘The Help’ reaches its tipping point”

  1. I heard about this book many months ago from a patron. I finally got my copy and absolutely loved it. As a child growing up in the South in the 60’s, I totally related to the storyline. The main action takes place in 1963. I was 7 years old then and indeed, most of the white families that I knew (my own included) had “help”…. it was a strange time to grow up in, and I think Stockett has captured it pretty much perfectly. Painful reminders of how things were back then, but very much on point.

  2. I saw this post and put a hold (one of many) on the title. I just got it Saturday and I can’t stop reading it. I’m going to be sad when I’ve finished.

  3. I had heard (here and elsewhere) that this was a book to read now. I feared it might fall into didacticism, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fine novel of character delineation and development. Aibileen, one of the help portrayed, stood forth as far more than a stereotype as she shares her wisdom about child rearing, interpersonal relations, housecleaning, and, yes, the black and white relations of the time. Just read a chapter or two and you will want to continue.

  4. I just finished the audio copy of this book. Wow, the actors nailed the voices of the characters. Am not sure if I dare to want to read another book just like “The Help” (could anything be as good?) for a little while now while that one settles in.

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