I just finished the novel "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. It's been a long time since I have read a book that I fell into so deeply and it touched me to my core.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960's, when the civil rights movement was sweeping the nation, the story is told by three main characters--Aibileen and Minny, who are black housekeepers for white Jackson society women, and Miss Skeeter, a white recent Old Miss graduate who was raised on a cotton plantation by a black maid, Constantine. Each chapter belongs to one of these three women and weaves this colorful, detailed tale of race, bigotry, discrimination, society, and life in those turbulent times.
Very strong secondary characters include Miss Leefolt and her toddler Mae Mobley, Miss Celia Rae Foote, Louvenia (another servant woman), Minny's abusive husband Leroy, Miss Skeeter's "suitor", Stuart Whitworth, and Miss Skeeter's former beauty queen mother, Miss Charlotte Phelan. The worst of the worst, though, is the absolutely evil Miss Hilly Holbrook, Old Miss sorority girl, Junior League of Jackson president, wife of a State Senate candidate, and absolute racist to the core. Also knit into the fabric of the story are true historical events, such as the assassinations of President Kennedy and Medgar Evans, the March on Washington, and cultural tidbits such as the arrival of air conditioning and remote controls for TV's.
If you are offended easily or shocked by certain things, don't read this book. It's all in here. Man's inhumanity to man (or, in this case, woman's inhumanity to woman) is also on vivid display in these pages. It is a thoroughly engrossing book, however, and I am a better person for having read it.