The Help: a book review

If you’ve read and liked To Kill A Mockingbird, you will love this book.

And if you like to read a good story, you’ll like this book.

The Help was written by Kathryn Stockett. This is her first novel, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s written from three different perspectives, whose voices are all distinct and clear. But their stories intertwine seamlessly, creating a masterpiece of fiction.

The story is set in the 1960’s, in Jackson, Mississippi. It is two centuries after the end of the civil war, but still in Jackson, the colored people still serve the whites. The women work as maids, cleaning, cooking, and raising white children for very little pay. They are expected to use a separate outdoor toilet, do every stitch of housework, and follow every unwritten code of separation. Their families depend on them for survival. One wrong move could topple their lives.

We follow Skeeter, a young white woman who is her mother’s disappointment, but aspires to be a journalist. Bothered by the way her friends treat their maids, she begins collecting stories from the black servants about how it really is to work for white families. These tales are shocking, disgraceful, and incriminating. Minny is a fiery, middle-aged black woman, caring for her family and working away from home at the same time. Her uncontrollable temper has gotten her into trouble too many times, and now she must carry even more secrets than ever. The story follows her journey to undo years of betrayal, hurt, and mistrust. Aibileen, the quiet and steady character, hears and observes everything. Caught in the tug between black and white, she struggles with her need to tell the truth and to protect her community.  Secrets are dangerous things, as we find out.

Establish Thou It | NYC Day 4

And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.
Psalm 90:17

Tuesday, our last day in the City, was when a lot of things happened. We finished up our jobs, saw the One World Trade Center, walked down Wall Street, fell in love with the skyline, and sang on Times Square.

I worked at a house where the owner had just downsized, and needed help sorting her things. The floor was covered in huge bags stuffed with shirts, pants, dresses, shoes, coats, sweaters, sheets, and curtains. Her kitchen counter was covered in dirty dishes and groceries. Her tiny backyard was a weed patch. But by the time we were through, her house was organized and clean (for the most part), and there was a tiny sidewalk in her tiny backyard.

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These five boys had come bearing donuts for us, and ended up hauling 50 lb bags of Sakrete up the skinniest stairs I’ve ever seen, chopping weeds, and sawing up her fence to install a gate complete with hinges and a latch.

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Our new friend cooked up a ‘mean stew’ for us, serving us delightedly. And what a stew it was! Carrots, potatoes, noodles, chicken drumsticks, cabbage, celery, and peppers, and all manner of seasonings and spices came together to nourish our stomachs and rapture our taste buds.

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Once we cleaned up, we hit the streets once again to head for Ground Zero. This was a pretty building along the way:

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One of the World Trade Center Memorials:

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One World Trade Center:

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This is Trinity Church:

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And this is the beautiful graveyard!

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We enter Times Square District:

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I was walking along in the flow of people, trying to follow the bobbing coverings I saw ahead of me, feeling enchanted and absent-minded. Suddenly, the stream of coverings turned and entered this huge restaurant. Into its dim interior I stepped, then couldn’t believe my eyes as the coverings stepped onto an escalator. An escalator in a restaurant! Anyway, we entered the top floor, and everywhere there were small tables covered with tablecloths and lit with small lamps, with rich-looking folks sitting at them, sipping from goblets and stealing glances at us. We walked all the way to the end of the room where two long tables had been set — just for us! That was cool.

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This photo makes me happy.

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That’s it, folks! Here is where my telling of the story ends. I hope you enjoyed the ride!

Teach Us to Number | NYC Day 3

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

The double purpose of our trip to New York City was to do odd jobs for the church family, and to sing and proclaim Jesus’ name to the public. For Monday and Tuesday, the morning and early afternoon was taken up with helping widows, elderly folk, and single mothers with their cleaning, painting, de-waxing, and moving. After cleanup, we headed out on the town to see the sights and sing in the subways.

Monday’s morning rays found us excited to get to work. My group stayed in the church basement to de-wax the linoleum floor. Here we are during our very complicated process of slapping down cleaner, running the machine to scrub off the wax, and cleaning up the mess.

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“America runs on Dunkin!” And so, apparently, do we! The local donut shop began recognizing us by the end of those few days. I only wish Lori could have been in this photo to prove that I really wasn’t the only gal in the group. That’s her backpack on the ground.

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A pretty house with a pretty porch.

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Where Mom and Heidi spent their day.

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After we cleaned up, we were ready to go out on the town. Soon we found ourselves between a street and a sidewalk, and under a tent with an overwhelming sound system. A very spirited church service followed, and something we’d never experienced! We just weren’t used to having women greet us first thing in church, or leading us in songs, or speaking for 20 minutes from the pulpit. Then the male pastor appeared, spoke a little bit, then Daniel Pollard introduced us, and we gave our song program. We really had to give it all we could, and long before we saw the last page of our music, our throats were parched and exhausted. But that could be fixed. A very kind gentlemen brought a boatload of water bottles, just for us, and we carried on, refreshed. With pedestrians pausing on one side, and vehicles whizzing by on the other, we sang on and on. What a unique experience.

Our ‘thrilling’ church service.

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Is she really preaching?”

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A cute friend of mine, Heather.

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