Book Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett

Book Review:

First, let me get any seeming biases out of the way: I am in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). I used to be in the Junior League. I was a sorority girl (actually the same one as the author but not at the same school). I am southern.

Ok, now that you know everything up front, I am going to review The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 🙂

The Help is a novel that explores being an African-American maid, working for a white family in a segregated South. Stockett’s main character, Skeeter, is an aspiring writer who decides to capture the stories and emotions of several black maids in a time when doing so was punishable by death at best, extreme suffering at worst. Aibileen and Minny head up the group of maids despite their fear of retribution, desiring to share the truth with others.

As the book cover says, this book challenges the lines of society and shines a light on the ones we abide by and the ones we challenge. Stockett  takes a risk writing through the eyes of African-American women living in the South in the 60s. Can she really convey how these maids felt?  Can she understand what they went through or the risks they took to share their stories? Here’s the confusing part: Is “she” Stockett? Or is “she” Skeeter? Or does it even matter? Could either of them write these stories in an unbiased way?

I do not know the answer to this debate. What I do know is that Stockett’s writing is that of a melody. She captures the audience and makes you believe you are part of the story. You grit your teeth at the harshness of the white women. You feel for the black women who have to live in fear for their jobs, for their lives. You relate to Skeeter as she is rejected by her friends yet not accepted by the maids. You bite your nails as you wait to hear if the book will be published. You laugh out loud as the women of Mississippi realize that it might just be about them. Then, suddenly, you see boundaries dissipate. You see white women appreciating their black maids. You see black maids holding their heads high. And you see Skeeter with a new beginning.

Of course, everything doesn’t happen that easily, and not everyone changes. Not every boundary magically disappears. And the change that occurs doesn’t happen without suffering. But for the short time you are reading the book, it’s as if you can hear a caged bird sing.

*This book was chosen as the March read for the Bloggy Book Club. I was not paid for this review.

**Find out more about the Bloggy Book Club here. The April read is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Book Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen

Book Review:

This book introduces you to Jacob, an elderly man, with an exciting past. Through Jacob’s eyes, we see the glamour and the hardships of life in the circus.

Gruen seamlessly switches from young Jacob to elderly Jacob and back again. Each chapter I was left wanting to know more, to read more. How does young Jacob’s experience affect elderly Jacob’s thoughts? How do elderly Jacob’s actions reflect young Jacob’s past? The flow of the book was incredible.

Parts of the book were incredibly graphic, but they painted a vivid picture of the circus as Jacob knew it. The peep shows and parties were part of Jacob’s life, and they obviously left him conflicted and confused – as we see in his apparent shame and repentance.

Mixed in with the explicit exploits of the circus is a beautiful love story that overcomes some overwhelming odds, including an abusive past, an absent family, and a nomadic lifestyle.

In addition, Gruen takes the reader on a touching journey as she presents elderly Jacob’s failing memory, evident anger, and never-fading loyalty to the circus.

If you have thought about reading this book and just haven’t found the time, pick it up. You may just join the rest of us who rave over Gruen’s work in Water for Elephants.

*This book was chosen as the February read for the Bloggy Book Club. I was not paid for this review.

**Find out more about the Bloggy Book Club here. The March read is The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Feature Friday

February 18, 2011

Date:  February 18, 2011

Blog: My Book Retreat

Author: Julie

Link: http://bookretreat.blogspot.com/

Description: This blog is dedicated to Julie’s love of books. She provides honest book reviews of a variety of genres, ranging from contemporary fiction to memoirs. She then rates the books on a scale of 1 to 5. You can find a list of her reviews on her My Reviews tab. Check it out and happy reading!