The pie secret
Skeeter Phelan, new college grad, wants to become a serious writer. Following the advice of a New York editor, she decides to write about something that bothers her, the treatment given by her mother and friends to their household help. As she begins interviewing the maids, Skeeter opens her mind to the terrible injustices woven into Mississippi society by old Jim Crow. The novel has three narrators, Skeeter herself and two maids, Minny and Aibileen. What evolves are deeply emotional stories about their relationships with each other and with their employers. Fortunately the narratives are sprinkled with humor, because there is so much else about which to feel anger and outrage.
What this novel does well is produce a vivid picture of ordinary life among the elite and underclasses in 1960’s, pre-integration Mississippi. Written in southern vernacular, the attitudes of the day come across loud and clear. Whether this portrayal is accurate or fair, as a lifelong CT Yankee, I cannot say for sure. But The Help is an intelligent, engrossing, and thought provoking tale with much to recommend it. If she doesn’t fall prey to second novel syndrome, Kathryn Stockett appears poised to enjoy a successful writing career. One thing’s for sure; I’ll never regard a chocolate cream pie in the same light again!