It’s a milestone week! By completing this book, I have officially read more in the first three months of this year than I did all of last year. That’s a bit crazy to me and yet, I am feeling really good after the first quarter of this project to read a book a week for an entire year. I still have momentary flashes of my bookshelves caving in on me or having the super ability to read multiple books at once, the words flashing through my eyes like all the images scrolling across an iPad. But I consider these minor psychological casualties and onward I press.

THE HELP came to me courtesy of my book club and was mandated by one of our original members–and my bestie–Claudia. Claudia has wanted to read THE HELP for the past six months and was eagerly anticipating her month to host. And, why not? The book has been quite the talk of the town: A Today Show “10 Must Read Books for Spring”, it currently sits at number 2 on the New York Times Hardcover Best Seller list and in the number 14 spot on’s Top 100. And, a gazillion people have given it rave reviews.

All of this, of course, is good news; but it’s also kind of bad. It reeks of hype and overselling and all that, “You have to read this great book–you’ll love it! Everyone loves it! My sister and her friend and her friend and her friend, well, I mean just everyone’s reading it but you, so just read it, okay? You’ll love it; I just know you will. I mean, have you read it already? MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

Ugh. So, I cracked open my Kindle version of the book and started reading, hoping it hadn’t been ruined by, well, everyone.

I am here to officially report that nobody ruined it. Kathryn Stockett’s novel lives up to the hype machine and she’s delivered a knockout the first time out.

Set in Jacksonville, Mississippi in the early ’60s, THE HELP concerns Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a college graduate returning home in hopes of embarking on a career in journalism; but she’s not quite sure where to start. Unbeknownst to her, there’s a wealth of story brewing right under her very own nose. Skeeter grew up, as did her privileged white friends, with hired help. The maids were brought in and entrusted with a woman’s children, but not the family silver. The racial, socioeconomic and hierarchical lines were strong and clear and become more strained when Skeeter’s best friend spearheads a community effort encouraging white families to build separate, external bathrooms for their help.

Outraged by the notion and sensitive to stepping outside her social boundaries, Skeeter goes underground and slowly gains the trust of maids Aibileen and her best friend Minny to share their stories of what it’s really like to work for a white family. This is extremely tricky and risky, with a number of implications if any are found out. As Skeeter gains the trust of Aibileen, a multi-layered story unfolds. A story that had me cringing and outright disgusted with the actions and attitudes of Skeeter’s friends, and enlightened by the relationship between a family and their help, which is a complicated one, fraught with many different emotions.

Stockett tells her story from the perspectives of its three main characters, using a first person narrative that alternates across the chapters. She is able to capture Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny’s different voices and, because it’s done so effectively, she keeps the story progressing at a rate that I didn’t want to put it down. I actually read the book in just two marathon sittings! I was most impressed with how well developed all of the characters were. Stockett brings their lives to life, showing them as individuals with hopes, dreams and desires, but also with talents and abilities well outside of what others–or they themselves–may expect.

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 464