I finally got around to reading this book after catching the middle of the movie a few weeks ago. For those who have seen the film and not read the book (or vice versa), the spirit of the novel is well-preserved in the film, and several details were dropped or changed for brevity.
The book takes place in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s, where black house maids are a staple of southern living. Recent college graduate and all-around non-traditional young woman Skeeter Phelan returns home looking for a writing career and the truth about her beloved maid who is mysteriously no longer with her family. Inspired by her desire to understand what happened, Skeeter begins talking to maids around town, eventually interviewing them for what becomes an anonymously authored book titled “Help.” The publication of “Help” turns Jackson upside-down.
My favorite aspect of the book was Stockett’s attention to detail. Her narrative switches between Skeeter and two maids, Aibileen and Minny, and her writing style is phenomenal. Stockett herself grew up Mississippi during the 1960s raised by her housemaid Demetrie, who served generations of her family for 50 years. It’s an aspect of mid-century life in the south that I never really recognized or learned about in school. The book has been described as today’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I highly recommend it!