By Kathryn Stockett
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009. 451 pgs. Fiction.
This wonderful debut novel by Kathryn Stockett takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s during the civil rights movement. The story in narrated by three different women.
Aibileen is a black maid who has raised 17 white children, but something changed inside her after she lost her own boy, who had wanted to write a book about being black in Mississippi.
Minny, another black maid, has never been able to control her mouth around the white women she works for and has lost yet another job. She finally gets a new job with a women named Celia who doesn’t know about Minny’s reputation because of her own ostracism from society.
The only white narrator is Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelen who having recently graduated from college and returned home to her parents’ cotton farm hopes to become a writer. Somewhat an outsider because she is not married, Skeeter is at first unaware of the racial tensions in Jackson. But after Skeeter is forced to write a column for the local women's league about the need to build separate bathrooms for black help because of the diseases “colored” people carry, she seeks out Aibileen to help write a book told from the black help’s perspective on working for white women.
One of the best parts of this novel is watching the trust develop between Skeeter and Aibileen and Minny and Celia.
This novel is very well written. There were a few times I paused just to marvel at the language of the novel. It is also surprisingly a page-turner (a rare thing for literary fiction). I would particularly recommend listening to this novel, the southern accents of the three narrators enhance the already pitch-perfect characters.