4 Reasons I LOVED The Help by Kathryn Stockett – a Writer’s Perspective

Hey ~ V here.  I just finished reading The Help.  Okay, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I LOVED this book.  Not only was it a wonderful story that I couldn’t put down, but there were 4 things about this book that I loved from a Writer’s Perspective.

1 – Accents.  So often, we hear not to write characters with accents, or not to write all their dialogue with the accent, that it’s annoying to the reader.  I loved the accent the author wrote in for the Maids in this book, and at least 2/3 of the book was written in first person, from the Maid’s accented perspective.

2 – Non-Linear Story Structure.  This story was told from 3 different points of view and it didn’t run in a straight timeline.  It meandered around backward and forward in time, by small amounts, a few months here or there.  But I liked that it kept you on your toes a little bit about what was happening when, without being completely unstructured like The Pilot’s Wife.

3 – Incorporated Real Events.  The book is set in 1962-63 and takes place in Jackson, Mississippi.  The events of the day play a small but important role in the motivation of the plot which gives a story with plenty of gravitas on its own, even more merit. 

4 – It’s a fascinating and heart-rending fictionalized account of a real time and real struggle.  I was born in 1970 and lived almost my entire childhood in Connecticut.  I graduated from high school in 1988 and have always said there was a flaw in our high school American History classes. 

We always started the year with colonialism, then got to the Revolution by Christmas.  In January the teachers somehow realized that we were behind and would skip from writing the US Constitution to the Civil War.  After February break, we’d skip from the Civil war to the Great Depression and WWII, then after April break, we’d be hopelessly behind and jump to current events.  Even though the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war were not too many years behind us then, we only ever gave them a brief overview.  Most of the details I know about the 1960’s and 1970’s come from books and movies.  My own memories of the 1970’s mostly involve Shaun Cassidy and the Muppets, separately.  I’m not sure Shaun was ever on the Muppet Show…but I digress.

The short time that I lived outside of CT in my childhood happened in 1971-1972 and my Yankee mother tells me that she remembers seeing “White’s Only” water fountain signs and the like in South Carolina where we lived, even then.  I can’t imagine people buying into something so ridiculous to me, even thought, of course, I know it was part of everyday life for millions of people for a long time.  Of course we have racism in Connecticut, both then and now, but it’s not quite so in your face as segregation.  Frankly, I don’t think that’s a good thing, but again, I digress from today’s topic.

Today’s Secret: As Casey wrote a few weeks ago, in her blog about breaking the writing rules, when done well, breaking the rules can be very effective.  This NY Times Bestseller and award-winning story (movie comes out later this month) is proof of that.

What books have you found inspiring?  Do you break the common Writing Rules?

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12 thoughts on “4 Reasons I LOVED The Help by Kathryn Stockett – a Writer’s Perspective”

  1. I read an article by Kathryn Stockett the other day. The Help was rejected 60 times. She didn’t give up on the book, but she didn’t stop trying to improve it, either. Great lessons for a writer; don’t stop believing in your story; don’t stop looking for ways to improve it either. Follow that rule, and YOUR book might be #1 on the NYT for eons and eons, too!

    What I loved about this book was the emotional grip it had on me. Rarely do I get to read a book where my heart is actually pounding. Ms. Stockett really had me by the throat the entire time. Looking forward to seeing the movie and sure hope they can do it justice.

    1. I can’t wait to see the movie – and this is a drama which really isn’t my kind of thing. I like action / adventure type movies, but I can not wait! WOW 60 rejections for this wonderful thing – hard to believe, but also, those rejections probably shaped parts of the final book.

  2. I’m listening to a really good audio version of this book right now (nearly finished, so thanks for not spoiling the end!), so the different voices come through perfectly for me! Like Kristan I find this book emotionally gripping. I want to listen through to the end, so I can find out what happens, but on the other hand I don’t want it to be over. Rarely have I read a book where I was so invested in the characters. Skeeter! If I knew how to play bridge, I’d invite you over AND I’d let you edit my manuscript. Aibileen! I’d beg you to help me raise my son, AND pay you a living wage and give you paid vacations and a retirement fund, if I could. Minnie! Leave that drunken SOB and come over for coffee and tell me what you really think! Hillie Holbrook! I HATE YOU! I’d like to make you a pie myself. But you know what character I find most compelling? Miss Celia. Hers is the story that really resonates with me. This book is powerful on many levels, and the author deserves all the success she’s achieved. Can’t wait to see what she comes out with next, and I’m looking forward to the movie too.

    1. I agree Miss Celia was a wonderful character and I’d like to know more about her. I don’t know enough about the civil rights movement. Honestly, I think I know more about life in medieval times than I do daily life in the 1960’s. I’d like to read more books like this one.

  3. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But you’ve got me very excited…and motivated to keep improving on my own writing.

    1. It’s really a great book. I couldn’t put it down. I read it right after Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the final books in the Hunger Games trilogy, so it was four days of neglecting the housework, but just a wonderful book.

  4. I haven’t read the book either. It’s on my list. I had a similar reaction to Water for Elephants. I couldn’t wait to finish reading it, but when the story ended, I was bereft! That’s when you know you’ve read a great book.

    1. OK – now I’m going to have to read Water for Elephants…did you see the movie? Was it as good as the book…maybe I can shorten the amount of time it takes to get the story into my brain…

  5. This was really a thoughtful blog. Your points are so well taken and in terms of this book. I especially enjoyed reading the book as well. In terms of the issues you raised that might be drawbacks in other books like using dialect, the changes in perspective and careful use of history were right on. She needed to believe in her story to get this published and kudos to the publisher who published it: smart one. I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks.
    Debralee Mede

    1. Ok, now I’ve really got to read that! I just got like 10 books from the library for my vacation next week. Who am I foolin’? I’ll have 3 little kids at the beach, not like I’m going to get much reading done! 🙂

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