The Help by Kathryn Stockett is quick and easy read, which is a scathing criticism. Stockett is trying to tell the story of the race relations and the "old rich" culture in the 60s in Jackson, Mississippi. And in doing so she is making two things clear to her audience: Stockett herself has never endured suffering in her life, and she certainly doesn't have the literary chops to do any sort of justice to this material.
The emotional depth of the book reminds me of "juvenile fiction" novels on the South that I read when I was in middle school. So as to keep the story age-appropriate (but still educational), the authors describe any painful experiences with a safe distance. Bring up the subject, talk about violence and prejudice, but don't make it too real. You come out of these novels knowing that racism occurred, but having no sense of what racism was. There's nothing ugly or disturbing, nothing that gives you any realistic sense of the life of a black American during those times.
Such is The Help. Granted, I am only a little over halfway through, but I am not optimistic for the rest of the book.
I just finished reading the chapter where Miss Celia's stillborn baby is floating in the toilet. My God if there was ever a chapter that brought to light the limitations of an author's writing. There's a dead baby in the toilet, and Stockett can't make this scene emotionally significant. Miss Celia's reaction is ludicrously unrealistic. Minny's narration is unfeeling, but not in a blase sense — in an, I'm-the-author-and-I-don't-know-how-a-person-would-react-to-this kind of way. Despite the tragedy that should be involved, or some moment of humanity that should be there, the sole purpose of the scene seems to be to drive the plot along with another information point: Miss Celia sucks at having babies. It's thoughtless, callous scene writing.
Sadly the book seems to fail not only in the bigger picture but the little things, too. Don't even get me started on Skeeter's romance — At first he blew me off because I was ugly. But then I candidly gave him my piece of mind, which no girl had done to him before!. Ohhh MAN.
But I should finish the book before I too definitively make my judgments. Part 2 comes later!
[EDITED TO ADD: Finished book and not worth Part 2-ing. The mother WILLS HERSELF to not have cancer anymore. This book can go die now.]