What’s it about? The Help begins in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi where the civil rights movement is just beginning. Kathryn Stockett beautifully illustrates the emotional climate of this tumultuous time through the perspective of three unique and courageous women.
Aibileen Clarke is a 53 year old black maid who has recently lost her only child and pours all of her energy and love into the upbringing of the white daughter of her employer. The death of her son has planted a bitter seed of resentment towards the white population of Jackson that she struggles to hide. Minny Jackson is Aibileen’s fiery best friend who refuses to be oppressed into the subservient role occupied by so many of her friends. Her sassy attitude has earned her nothing but trouble in the town of Jackson. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a debutante from one of the most prominent white families in Jackson. She has recently graduated from university and is struggling to find a balance between her dream to be a writer, and the desire to conform to the traditional interests of her friends in the Junior League.
An opportunity arises for these three women to work together to express their frustration and discontent with the commonplace social injustices they experience every day. The three points of view complement each other perfectly for a deeply engrossing, heartbreaking and uplifting story.
Is the narrator any good? Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin and Octavia Spencer do an extraordinary job of adding another dimension to the already exquisite characters of these three Southern women. Their accents are impeccable and transport you into the deep South, where you begin to form an intimate relationship with Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter. Each voice is distinct, and perfectly suits the personality of each character. I believe this audio book is a much richer experience than simply reading the text, as the multiple narrators add so much depth and passion to the book.
The verdict? The Help is truly a unique audio experience. The coupling of a captivating storyline and the enthralling and emotional narration creates an exceptional listening experience. By the end of the book I felt I had formed a relationship with each of these women and was emotionally invested in each of their stories. Kathryn Stockett takes on a sensitive issue with poise, honesty and a great sense of humour. There were times when I burst into laughter while listening to this book, and other times when I was moved to tears. The rave reviews are well deserved. This is one book that must be experienced through the medium of an audio book.