The Help pulled me in after chapter one, and I kept reading till almost midnight the first day...
The book takes place in the early sixties, at the beginning of the civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi, where black maids work for less than minimum wage and aren't allowed to use the family bathrooms.
The author focuses on three memorable women: Minnie, a wonderful cook, often gets fired for "being sassy" to her employers; Aibillen, another maid, is raising her seventeenth white child; and Skeeter is a recent college graduate and Junior League member whose mother is bent on her marrying well.
When the three women take on a clandestine and dangerous project, it changes all their lives.
The author, Kathryn Stockett, a Jackson native who grew up with a maid in her family, has a good ear for the voices of her characters, two of whom speak in the dialect of the time. She is particularly clever at pacing and dialogue, and her plot is beautifully planned and executed. Some of the plot points feel a bit contrived or pushed, and at times a little unbelievable, but the story is powerful and the characters fascinating.
This is a winner for book clubs. It's shocking and funny and hard to put down.