Friday, January 28, 2011
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnum
Amazon Blurb -
Starred Review. What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.
This novel was just absolutely fantastic! It brought so many emotions forth in me, I loved it. I was angry, sad, frightened, happy, and laughing out loud at times. Without a doubt this book is going to produce some very thought provoking feelings and discussion. I was talking to my hubs and kids about it as it progressed constantly.
The story is told by the 3 different main ladies in the book, Aibleen, Skeeter, and Minny. It takes place from 1962-64 in Jackson Mississippi. Aibileen and Minny are maids who work for Skeeter’s friends. Sadly, prejudice runs so deep and thick in this southern town, it’s pitiful. The thought that these vibrant funny ladies are somehow less than human because of their skin color is shocking.
Skeeter is an awkward gal. Very tall, thin, blond hair that is puffed up with frizz, she’s always felt out of place. Her mom has done nothing to encourage her self esteem, quite the opposite actually. Her friends Hilly and Elizabeth, who she’s been with since she was young, are married and have kids, just what her mother is wishing for her. They belong to a social club, and they hold bridge parties together. Skeeter is just graduated and home from college and she gets right back into the social life with her friends.
Aibileen is Elizabeth’s maid. She has such sorrow in her heart due to the death of her son. Caring for Elizabeth’s daughter Mae Mobley helps her soothe the ache. She truly loves this baby girl and Mae Mobley adores Aibileen. Aibileen is who we meet first, and right away you find out what a bitch Hilly is. While at a bridge party at Elizabeth’s house, Hilly’s snide nasty selfish ways come across loud and clear. The others are obviously too timid to do anything other than just nod in agreement to whatever Hilly might be saying.
Minny is a hoot! Sassy and brash, she can’t hold a job due to her mouth. The thing is, she is known as the best cook in Jackson and all love her cakes and pies, especially her caramel cake! She has been with Hilly’s mom, but Hilly is sticking her mother in an old age home so Minny will be without a job again. Not too easy for her to find one either with her sassing. She fixes Hilly but good when Hilly wants Minny to work for her and Minny doesn’t want to since her cousin Yula Mae already does and she won’t hurt her cousin like that. In the hopes of forcing Minny to work for her, Hilly spreads the rumor that Minny is a thief, which ruins any chance she might have had finding a job. Minny does get a job a bit aways out with Hilly’s ex-boyfriend’s new wife Celia Foote. Hilly is on the hunt to find Minny because of the terrible awful that Miss Minny did to her.
Skeeter gets a job at the local paper as the advice columnist. She is clueless to household hints let alone advice about men, so she asks Aibileen to help her. Elizabeth isn’t all that happy about Aibileen’s time being spent helping Skeeter. As time progresses, Skeeter starts to realize how wrong these ladies and their other compatriots are treated when Hilly forces Elizabeth to build a bathroom in her garage for Aibileen to use so they don’t catch any diseases from sharing the main one. Imagine that sh*t!! Cook my food and care for my kids, but don’t use my bathroom I may get sick from you!!!! I would be serving pee soup and spit tea to those b*tches.
Aibileen tells Skeeter a bit about her son, how smart he was and how he wanted to write a book about being a black man working for white people. A little light bulb goes on in Skeeter’s head and the idea is born. She slowly starts prodding Aibileen to tell her how she is treated, and if she’ll get her friends to do the same. It takes much time and convincing, but eventually besides Aibileen and Minny, ten other wonderful woman come forth and spill the beans on these people.
You learn that not all the relationships are so negative. There were some that were filled with love and companionship. Who would never want to be separated till one died. Yes there were those who are just so ignorant in their ways that they have been steeped in and handed down family to family since the civil war times, you can only pity the fact that it is for that reason they are such a$$holes. Even Skeeter herself doesn’t realize some of the wrong and Aibileen helps her to see. The crap they say and do made me want to scream while reading. I understand perfectly that there are employer and employee relationships, but to intentionally undercut, underpay, and treat despicably another human being is just sad.
Finding out what the terrible awful was that Minny did to Hilly made me roar with laugther!! Hilly was Nelly from Little House On The Prairie tenfold! What a bully she was, and all were afraid to stand up to her. I understand the times, and small town living, how ones reputation can be ruined, but for Pete's sake someone should have grown a backbone and hammered Hilly right on the head. How she's described made me think of Shirly Temple on steroids, dressing kinda childlike while being a grown woman.
I recommend this book to everyone, read it, smile, be sad, laugh, and enjoy this author’s first foray into published authordom. It also is going to become a movie! We certainly had a great time discussing it at our book club meeting, and it touched me very much.