Waaaaaaay back in June, I fell into the trap set by Jen from Devourer of Books. You see, Jen was hosting Audiobooks Week and although I wasn’t in time to take part in the event itself, her words of wisdom started me pondering this oft overlooked form of media. I had never really listened to Audiobooks before, except to hear small excerpts here and there and to be quite honest, as awful it sounds, I had always considered Audiobooks to be nothing more than books for the blind. Why would anyone want to listen to a story when they can read it themselves, right? WRONG!
Jen suggests that newcomers give Kathryn Stockett’s The Help a try if they want to get a great audiobook experience. I took her recommendation and now (wouldn’t ya just know it) I’m hooked on audiobooks.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett, copyright 2009.
Read by: Jenna Lamia, Octavia Spencer, Bahni Turpin and Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: I wanted to give Audiobooks a try.
It’s 1963, this year Martin Luther King Jr. will March on Washington, D.C. to give his “I have a dream” speech and John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, will be assassinated in Dallas, Texas. In Jackson, Mississippi, civil-rights activist Medgar Evers will be assassinated by the Klu Klux Klan.
Skeeter Phelan, Jackson socialite and aspiring author, has just finished college and is returning home to begin the next stage of her life. Wanting desperately to escape to New York in the hope of pursuing her dreams, Skeeter finds herself perusing the help wanted ads in the Jackson Journal. Taking the bull by the horns, she applies for an editorial position at the New York firm of Harper and Row. Needless to say, the unpublished, inexperienced Phelan is turned down for the job, and, instead, receives a letter of encouragement from Elaine Stein, an Editor at the company. While mulling over Ms. Stein’s advice, Skeeter gets a job working for the Jackson Journal writing a weekly column on cleaning, a subject that the well-bread young woman knows absolutely nothing about.
Aibileen specializes in changing diapers and polishing silver. As a coloured woman in Jackson, there is little opportunity for her to become good at much else. Employed at the home of Elizabeth Leefolt, a friend of Miss Skeeter’s, Aibileen has the opportunity to observe the elite of Jackson’s society women on a regular basis. She serves them lunch at bridge club, overhears their gossip at social events and puts up with their condescending and racist dispositions. It is Aibileen that Skeeter approaches for advice on writing her cleaning column, and it is in Aibileen that she will find a steadfast ray of hope and a reluctant and wary accomplice for an affair like nothing Jackson has seen before.
Through her discussions with Aibileen and her observations of the behaviour of her friends towards their coloured help, Skeeter unintentionally hits upon a hot writing topic. A topic so hot it threatens to inflame the entire town. With encouragement from Ms. Stein, Skeeter begins working on a collection of stories about Jackson’s colored help and their experiences working for white women in Mississippi. The uncertainty and peril of putting together such a work behind the backs of friends and loved ones in the heart of the south is what ignites this passionate story and gives it soul.
The racial tensions in Jackson continue to heat up as the town strides into 1964 with the events of the past year weighing heavy on their minds. If Skeeter and the others are found out there will be trouble. The consequences for Skeeter could be devastating; the consequences for Aibileen could be deadly.
The Help is funny, heart-wrenching and absolutely addicting. Told from three perspectives, those of Aibileen and Skeeter and another maid, Minnie, it is so multifaceted and intricately woven, that it is hard to pick out the most relevant pieces of the story to construct a truly coherent summary. The thing about The Help is that every last detail is relevant. The heart of this story is as fiercely present on the first page as it is on the last and every page in between.
There is no question that the narration is phenomenal. All four women voice their characters so well. With all the characters having their own voice, it made the story such an easy listening experience. I found myself tootling around the house looking for something to clean, so I would have an excuse to listen to more of the book.
You will love The Help!
RATING: A Wool New Reading Experience