…by Kathryn Stockett.
The novel, set in the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, is about the lives of African American maids who work for white women. The book particularly revolves around three people – Aibileen, a maid, Eugenia (aka Skeeter) a want-to-be writer, and Minny, another maid.
Skeeter graduates from college and dreams about becoming a writer. After college, she moves back home with her parents, and takes a job at the local newspaper. Hoping to write a book, Skeeter comes up with an idea to interview black maids that work for the white families in Mississippi and chronicle their experiences in the pre Civil Rights movement era. Even after realizing all the risks associated with the project, she goes forward and takes up the challenge.
How Skeeter gets Aibileen to do the interview for her and how Aibileen and Minny manage to make other maids come forward; what challenges they go through during the project; how the maids react to talking to a white person about their white employees; what all ugly truths she faces during the time; how she copes to get a dozen interviews; what risks she and the maids take to put all this together; how Skeeter’s family and friends react to her rather rebellious views; what happens in the town after the book is released; whether or not Skeeter goes on to find a new job in New York – all this and more is answered in this well woven tale about the intricacies of compassion, love and relationships.
This amazing debut novel by the author kept me engrossed from the first page. What I’ve said above is just a gist of the story…you will have to read the book to know how gripping it is. As serious as the central theme of the story is, there are pieces here and there that won’t fail to make you smile and chapters that will leave your eyes misty. All three main characters get a voice of their own to narrate their life – exasperation, anxieties, joys, dreams – and that’s a good way to get the readers to relate, I feel. The need for the main characters to do something to make a difference, even if it means greater risk to their own/their family’s well-being, is something that sends a strong message. And that makes the book a very compelling read.
The fear that the main characters experience once they start working on the secret project, the ups and downs they go through during the journey, the dynamics of the relationships between the maid and her employer – with all this, the story had the power to move me every so often. What I found particularly interesting was the bond that the maid and the employer’s child/children share – with the maid doing everything for the child, from cleaning to feeding, from playing to storytelling, day in and day out, they eventually come so close that the relationship goes on to evolve into something beautiful. The attachment is evident especially when the maid is fired, and both the child and the maid are in tears as they realize that it’s time for final goodbyes. It will touch a chord, no doubt.
Overall, this is one of the riveting novels I’ve read and I would highly recommend it.
My rating: 5*.
*for the rating scale, click here.