Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Help (copy)

The setting is a hot Jackson in August of 1960. Aibileen arrives at the Leefolt residence where she will raise yet another white baby. This is what she is good at—raising white babies—and from the looks of it she is in the nick of time.

The baby is wailing with colic, and her mother is pleading for her to be quiet. Not touching her mind you, she stands at a distance shushing. I go straight in to little Mae Mobley, pluck her out of the crib, and sit her in my lap. I start the bouncy, my way of easing that ole gas out and she settles down. Miss Leefolt, still standing at a distance, throws her hands in the air. “I tried everything and it wouldn’t hush! It wouldn’t stop!”

Now, Mae Mobley is two, and we are inseparable. From the time I enter the residence, she is doing the gimme fingers. No matter how many times I kiss her boo-boos and soothe her hurt feelings, you can tell it is Miss Leefolt’s attention she craves.

Today, I am instructed to keep her quiet and out of the way. The ladies are playing bridge in Miss Leefolt’s small dining room, and Mae Mobley is mere feet away in her highchair. The swinging door distracts sweetie as I come and go while waiting on the ladies.

The ladies consist of Miss Leefolt’s two college friends, Miss Skeeter and Miss Hilly, and Miss Hilly’s mom Miss Walter. Miss Walter be deaf as a doe-nob according to Minny, my friend who works for her.

During the ladies’ conversation Minny’s name comes up. Miss Hilly is saying how Minny’s stealing the family heirlooms right out from under Miss Walter’s nose. It’s not so, but Miss Walter doesn’t hear the talk and doesn’t disprove.

Naturally, I’m all ears hoping to hear more when Miss Hilly stand up and announce she needs to use the bathroom. This seems a little odd. She knows it is down the hall, but she’s waiting for Miss Leefolt to acknowledge her. Then she asks to use the upstairs bathroom. Miss Skeeter asks what’s wrong with the hall bathroom, and Miss Hilly say that’s where the help goes.

Kathryn Stockett has done a rare and beautiful thing. She has crafted an engrossing story of three women navigating the confusing Civil Rights Era in her native state of Mississippi. The Help is hands-down the best book of 2009.

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