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Reviewed by Rebecca Hallam

This novel takes place about 1964, around the time of Martin Luther King Jr., and is based in the town of Jackson, Mississippi.  The story is relayed through the perspectives of three women; two black women, Aibileen and Minny, working as maids in the south and one young white woman, Skeeter, hoping to become a writer and stumbling upon the opportunity to write about what it is like to be a black maid to white families.  What gets this broiling for Skeeter is when one of her best childhood friends and bridge partner insists the womens’ league newsletter publish her campaign ad for whites to build separate washrooms for their coloured help.  Skeeter detests the idea.  She has very fond memories remembering the woman and maid that raised her and who mysteriously disappeared from her life.  She wants answers and continues to dig for them while taking risks in developing her book for publication.

What I enjoyed about this story was the language through which each perspective is conveyed, and how I could clearly hear their Mississippi accents in my mind and how well the individual stories were woven through the chapters of this book in a very fluid telling.  I was afraid for Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter for most the book and yet, surprised by the irony they created in their own lives through their own perceptions of the “society rules” or for not acknowledging how they continued to perpetuate what they were trying to break in society.  I suppose fear and being so close to the centre of something makes it difficult to see anything else at times.  Yet in the end, they are ready and acknowledge the new paths before them.  They were hugely courageous, and I admire them for their stamina.

When I finished the story, reading the author’s notes at the end of the book was as insightful as the story itself and gave another dimension to the entire experience of the novel and how the story related to her personal life story growing up in Jackson, Mississippi.  This is Kathrn Stockett’s first novel.  You will enjoy this book if you pick it up and allow yourself to be connected to these characters and the author.