The Help

thehelpIt was expected that April's book club pick would be a hit.  This month's selection, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, was chosen by book club member Kim and became wildly popular shortly after its publication in early 2009.  The novel spent 50 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, has received endless praise from book reviewers and is beloved by book clubs throughout the country (HCG reader Lauren Bogar gave it a plug from her book club on this site back in November).

Before we dish on the book, a synopsis via GoodReads:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

We love love LOVED this book. I was skeptical upon my initial skimming of the inside book jacket - 1962 segregated Mississippi?  Wasn't it about time our book club chose something a little lighter?  But despite the serious subject matter, The Help managed to address the atrocities of segregation while keeping an overall light tone which made for a pleasant and quick read.  The story is told through the voices of three main characters, and, unlike other books that alternate between first person narratives of multiple characters, The Help maintained a natural flow and kept the reader hooked onto every last word.  The two principal maid (not main) characters, Aibileen and Minny, are lovable and endearing (even if their certain dialect did take a little getting used to).  You quickly find yourself invested in the maids' stories and pulling for their success, all the while wishing for the demise of the incredibly loathsome villains (the worst of whom is Hilly, one of the craziest, meanest bitches I've ever seen in print).  Simply put, The Help is one of those books you're sad to finish.

Since our creation in September 2009, our book club has always met at the hosting member's home.  In a shocking book club twist of events, we had a last minute change of venue when Kim's work schedule prevented her from hosting: A RESTAURANT.  Specifically, Pietro's on Walnut Street in Center City.  We loved that Pietro's made for an easy night out for everyone (no pressure to do anything other than show up and pay), but the scene was loud and we didn't stay as late as we usually do.  We did spend at least 20 minutes debating which actresses would play which characters in the movie version of The Help (Wanda Sykes and Mo'Nique were our front runners for Minny, with Queen Latifah in the lead for Aibileen).

Another group has formed as a result of our incredibly successful book club: a men's "book club" comprised of our husbands who go out on the town while we chat about books.  It became a short-lived practice that the men would read our books after we did, so we created a brilliant name for their group: Sloppy Seconds (I was actually quite envious when I came up with this name, since it's accurate, hilarious and better than having no name at all).  Sloppy Seconds isn't very good at reading books, but they are really good at not eating and getting incredibly drunk during our meetings.  Often, e-mails fly between the women the next day debating whose husband was the most drunk after Sloppy Seconds the night before (HAF's husband is in the lead but, in his defense, we think he's trying to squeeze in all of his fun before their baby arrives in June).  When Sloppy Seconds gets feisty (and after huge boots full of beer on empty stomachs at Brauhaus, they're bound to get riled up), we remind them that they wouldn't even be in existence if it weren't for our book club.  Now we just need our own awesome name.

Finally, huge congratulations are owed to book club member Jen (a.k.a. JTS) who announced her pregnancy at our meeting.  Sloppy Seconds is mourning the future loss of another member.  Drinks all around!