Thoughts On The Help

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Welcome to another Thoughts On book review. You’ll see these pop up on my blog whenever I’ve found a book I just can’t put down. 

On my last break from school I came home to find this thick, creamy spine resting on my bedroom dresser. Thanks to a successful thrift store raid on behalf of Mommy Dearest, I now had yet another recommendation to sink my teeth into. And for those of you who read The Help six years ago when it first came out, I know, I know, I’m extremely late to the game. But, hey, I’m here now! Doesn’t that count for something?

Better extremely late than never, that’s what I say! Heh heh…….heh.

Okay.

Now, from what I knew about the timeline of the book going in to it, I was expecting to get swept up in a post antebellum tale filled with characters that either staunchly adhere to or boldly challenge that all-important concept of the color line. And while I love me a good dose of 1960s societal criticism, I actually found myself drawn toward Miss Skeeter (arguably the least bigoted character in the entire novel) and the wonderful world of publishing.

Maybe it’s because recently my mind has been hyper focused on writing my first batch of query letters, but I really connected with Skeeter’s entry into the New York publishing industry. Reading Skeeter was like having someone right there beside me who “got it.” She does it all: the nail biting, the crazy late night deadline typing, the nervous pacing by the phone.

Yeah, that’s right. They didn’t have email back then my friends.

And what I loved most about Skeeter was that I watched her face those challenges in a realistic way. She wasn’t a philosophical muser who, upon soulful rumination set to a background of some cheesy 80s power ballad, realized that deep down she had the courage in her all along to pursue her dream. Because she didn’t.

In reality she was terrified. Terrified that her friends would find out she was interviewing their maids. Terrified that her duplicity would put the colored women she was coming to love in danger. And terrified to stand on her own in a society filled with people clinging desperately to a suffocatingly intolerant status quo. One of the most memorable scenes for me was the moment Skeeter comes home and realizes that she has left the red satchel containing all of the materials for her book at the League meeting. She says,

“I stand still in my quiet bedroom, a slow tingle of panic working its way up my spine. The satchel, it has everything in it.”

Her body is numb. Her face turns a pale yellow. And when she puts two and two together and realizes that the most bigoted member of the Junior League is about to open the zipper on Skeeter’s secret bag of tricks, a brick of hot dread forms in her stomach.

And from that fear, she acts. Instead of bending to the will of her ever-controlling mother, Skeeter stands up for herself for the first time in her life, demanding the car for an immediate satchel rescue mission. She wasn’t courageous, she was afraid. And that’s what makes her story so relatable.

Sometimes it’s fear that drives us, and that’s okay. The courage comes later, once you’ve climbed the mountain, won the battle. Or written the book. And, like Skeeter, if we can use our fear to fuel our dreams instead of allowing it to keep us from achieving them, who knows what we can do?

 

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