The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I resisted reading this one. I have a thing - if a bunch of people say "oh it's so great!" and they likely heard about it on Oprah...I just can't. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, so...sue me.
Anyway. Another blog I follow reviewed the audio and let me in on the tidbit that pushed me into the "listen to this" turf: Octavia Spencer, who voices Minny, will be playing her in the movie. So to the library I went.
Now, I've got more than just that one bias: I HATE multiple first-person point of views. Hate them. If I get into a book and I start liking the character and then I turn the page and I'm suddenly in the head of another character...I close it. Listening to this, though, solved that. I was hearing voices...and the actresses did such a good job I could have sworn I was just listening to them tell their stories. I became addicted. (even now, I miss them a little.)
So this story - what's so great about this story? It is not the story of a revolution. It is not the story of great sweeping change. It's not even a good love story...really.
It's a story that could be true. It's a story you could hear from your grandparents, if they lived in the South in the 60s (mine did.)
Stockett's breadth of imagination is impressive - not only for events but for reactions and emotions. Each character, even those who are merely satellite characters - are fully formed and believable. You could live next door to them. We all know how much I'm a sucker for that kind of development.
She also has her finger on the pulse of Civil Rights in Mississippi in the 60s. Events are happening to change the rest of the country...but that's the rest of the country. In Mississippi, things are just fine, thank you very much.
But Skeeter - I identified the most with Skeeter. Awkward, with dreams of being a writer. She comes home from college and realizes that she may not like her lifelong friends. She has the most obvious rite of passage here, although Aibileene and Minny come out the other side of their little adventure stronger women as well.
It really is well worth reading. I loved every minute - I can't even tell how many times I paused in whatever I was doing while listening so I could just listen...and how many times I teared up. I'll even admit (spoiler) that when the Skeeter got the phone call in January, I jumped up and did a little happy dance for her.
From what I can tell, the movie stays true to the story...but I have plans to see it in August, so I'll let you know. CJ Cregg is in it, though, so it's bound to be amazing.