I didn’t finish it in a few days as most people, it still took me a little over a week. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, because I was, but I felt a foreboding which I only overcame about two-thirds in. This already says something about how much I liked it, because I would have no problem in reading about the downfall of characters I cared nothing about. It also says something of Stockett’s ability to craft a story. She builds up tension, then releases it just to build it up again with a vengeance.

I won’t go into details about the plot, since everyone in the www seems to have read it already, but what amazed me about “The Help” was the way it managed to go beyond race and civil rights. Jackson, Mississippi was a microcosms (someone called it “harem-like”) too small to hold that amount of fractions, but which you know was replicated all over the American South in the 60s: employees vs. employers, high-class vs. low-class, women vs. men, south vs. north, conservative vs. liberal, white vs. black, dark-black vs. light-black. For me the biggest accomplishment of the novel was how the author made us aware of all these complex relationship. She gives us a peek at how Miss Leefolt treats Aibileen, but then we also see Minny’s judgment of Miss Celia. (By the way, I haven’t read many reviews mentioning Miss Celia, but she was one of my favorite characters, I just wish she was a little sharper and that her closure felt less abrupt.)

The book also made me think of the many untold heroes of the civil rights movement, people with quiet bravery, who didn’t make it to the history books and Hollywood movies. Do you ever think about what you’d do in similar situations? Would you write a book that might get people lynched? Would you hide Jews in the cellar at the risk of your own life and your family’s? My father was part of the underground movement during Portugal’s dictatorship, he was followed by the political police and the only thing that prevented him from being arrested was the start of the Colonial War, which instead forced him to fight in the African jungle. Would I do the same in his shoes? I like to think I would, but who knows?

But back to “The Help”, like I said, I didn’t start compulsively reading until later on, until That Moment happen. You know, the moment where you think “damn, this is good!” Mine was when Skeeter was driving back home, after being publicly humiliate and rejected at the Junior League meeting. She’s persona non grata, everything seems gloom, and then she hears Dylan singing “Times They Are a-Changin’” and thinks “I feel like I’ve just heard something from the future.”

Not flawless, but The Help does challenge you and makes you think, and that’s the highest praise I can give a book.

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