Thursday, May 27, 2010

Books: The Help

A few days ago, I finished reading The Help and I have mixed feeling about it. Mainly, I wanted and expected more from the ending.  This is Kathryn Stockett's first novel and it was a 'sleeper hit' of last summer.  A friend loaned it to me and I decided to give it a chance.  There was something about the cover (and I know, don't just a book by it's cover, but...) that had deterred from buying it.  After diving in, reading 400 pages and becoming completely obsessed with the beautifully-written story and well-developed characters, I could sense where the story was headed and I started to get nervous. 

I don't need a happy ending; in fact, in most of my own stories, the endings are ambiguous to a certain degree.  As a reader, I like when stories aren't totally wrapped up at the end--that means that the writer trusts his or her readers enough to figure out where the characters are headed after the last page of the book.  The Help seemed to be gearing up towards a big ending but it never came.  When I was done reading the last page, I flipped over to see if there was more.  I was sure that there was another chapter.  The ending felt like just the end of another chapter, not the end to a story that spanned several years in these characters' lives.  Two of the three main chracters have horrible things happen to them in the last chapter and the reader, who has come to know and care about them, is left in the ditch with them with no clue as to whether they prosper or fail, live or die. 

Stockett's story of African-American maids in 1960's Mississippi is touching and gets to the emotional core of the time.  I hated the villains, I loved the narrators, I empathized with everyone that was put in a compromising situation.  But in the end, I wanted some closure.  The Jackson, Mississippi community during this time period, as Stockett's writes it, became so vivid to me and I'm sure there are more stories to tell.  I can only hope that Stockett decides to write a follow-up to The Help using some of the same characters so that we can get to peak into their lives again. 

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