I’m glad I read this one. It’s one of the flavours of the hour, as I like to call them, and I’m always suspicious of these books. I often avoid them because a few have been known to fall short of living up to the hype. Though, admittedly, when I think about it, most of them are popular for a reason — they’re good. My sister recommended this one (and provided it) so I went ahead and read it. Stockett is a great writer, and I enjoyed the book more than I anticipated I would.
It’s the mid-1960s in Mississippi. Skeeter has just graduated from Ole Miss and is now back home living with her parents. She wants to be a writer, or a journalist. When she returns home, she finds that Constantine, the woman who raised her, is gone, and no one will tell her why. Skeeter decides to try and write a book of interviews that detail the lives of the African American women who work in the homes of the well-to-do in Jackson, her hometown.
Once I got into it, I read this at a mad pace because I was so afraid that Skeeter was going to get caught writing this book of hers and that the women she was writing about were going to get hurt because of it.
I admire Stockett’s pluck for creating a book about the attitudes in the southern US at the beginning of the civil rights movement that didn’t make me want to crawl under my bed and hide for the rest of my life. Books about what idiots we humans have been in the past, whether they are about damage done to fellow human beings, other species, or the environment in general, are always valuable reminders that we need to learn from our past mistakes. That said, they’re usually pretty depressing too. This is a hopeful book (and if a book can’t be happy, as I’m sure a book about any of humanity’s historical blunders would struggle to be, I appreciate when it is hopeful). That said, not having grown up in the southern US in this time period, I wonder how people who did experience the attitudes of the time feel about the book. I don’t know if the book really addresses the issues so much as just providing caricatures of some of the people who were facing the issues, but I see the merit in drawing attention to an uncomfortable topic nonetheless.