- 101 in 1001
June 28, 2010
Labels: Book Reviews
Date Finished: June 27, 2010
Summary: Aibileen has been a caretaker for seventeen white children, but found that something inside her changed after her son, Treelore, died only a few years ago. Minny is a sassy Black maid who is known for her cooking, but also for her smart mouth. Because of her reputation, it is hard for her to find a job. She does find a job with an eccentric woman who is hiding a secret. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan has just graduated from college instead of getting married like her friends, Hilly and Elizabeth. Her mother is pushing her to get married, but Skeeter wants something more. When she gets a job writing for a house keeping column, she finds herself seeking the advice of Aibileen. Skeeter wants to change things and she and Aibileen decide to tell their stories. Skeeter is looking for her old maid Constantine and Aibileen tells her story of working for white families. Minny makes the ultimate sacrifice by telling a Terrible Awful story to keep the identities of the women secret.
Likes: Every section ended on a cliff hanger. The tension was successfully carried during the whole novel and there wasn't not a moment that went by where I wasn't thinking "What's going to happen to them? What are the consequences of their actions?" I loved the interaction between Aibileen and Mae Mobley, I felt it was very authentic and believable. I liked that Skeeter was an independent free thinker and was an honest good person. Minny was awesome and the things she did was disgusting, but bold. I liked all of the characters, even the ones we weren't supposed to like. They were written so vividly that when you disliked someone, you really disliked them and when you loved them, you really rooted for them to succeed, in whatever measure of success one could have in 1960's in Mississippi. (you'll know what I mean when you read the ending). The author admits that the story is a lot complex than she could address, but I enjoyed her take on it. I also liked her own personal experience at the end with her Black maid. Her story seems to parallel that of Skeeter's story.
Dislikes: There wasn't much that I didn't like. I had to get used to the diction in Minny and Aibileen's sections, but after a while it seems more natural. I hated Hilly, but it's unfortunate that there are actually people as ridiculous as she is (I've met a few of them in my lifetime).
Overall: I was a little skeptical about this story. Before I was more aware of racial aspects in stories, it probably wouldn't have made a difference. This is a case of someone getting it right without relying on stereotypes and making the characters multi-dimensional. Now that I'm more aware, I wonder if this novel were written by an African American author would it receive as much buzz as this novel has gotten. Not to say that the buzz is unwarranted, this was an amazingly compelling novel. I had trouble putting it down, but I had to eat and sleep, even if I fought it just to read the novel. It's rare to read a novel so compelling. It's just an interesting question that has no answer.
Recommended by: I'm not sure where I heard about this, but this has been on my waiting list since last year. The book was just now available for checking out and it's overdue by a few days, so my library fines are probably about 15 dollars at this point.
Acquired: Riverside Public Library