This is a story about a small town in Mississippi during the early 1960's. There are a group white women who had been friends in high school and college, who now form the upper crust of a small town society. One of the women, Eugenia, is not married, but has dreams of becoming a writer. Because of a challenge from a New York publisher and because of fond memories of her family's maid, she decides to interview the black maids of her friends to find out what it is like to work for white women in Mississippi. As she gradually progresses in her project she comes to realize what a dangerous undertaking it is for those she interviews, and even herself. She also comes to love and admire the women she interviews and they come to love and admire her. The chapters are written from the point of view of three people, Eugenia, and two of the maids, Aibileen, and Minny. The writing is wonderful and the characters, fascinating. They are types that that you instantly recognize and think, "I know someone who is just like that," but they are not stereotypes. There are a couple of scenes that are difficult, but not because they are smutty, but because she so poignantly portrays real life.
I usually read children's books because I am a children's librarian, but our library is having an adult summer reading program, and I signed up for it. I figured I would take it as an opportunity to expand my horizons and try some grown-up literature. I started out with Water for Elephants, but quit it about a quarter in because it had offensive elements. One of the adult librarians suggested The Help. I knew it had been made into a movie, so I decided to give it a try. I am glad I did. (451 p.)