I am frequently surprised at the poor content of fabulously popular novels (think: Twilight) and therefore I try to avoid the "top fiction," but this book was handed to me by a friend who teaches literature so I decided to give it a try. Not having any idea what it was about, I started without any real expectations and was happy to see it was historical fiction because that is the genre I enjoy most. It quickly became apparent, however, that this was a rather watered down version of the history of black maids in the 1960's. I'm sure that this issue is largely due to the fact that it is written by a woman who admits to being a "rich white girl." Stockett's desire to tell the other side of the story is admirable, but too much of her white Mississippi background shines through. The novel centers around the writing of a novel by a young white woman who interviews a dozen black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. While there is much fear declared over what the consequences could be, they some how end up being almost unexsistent, which seems unrealistic for the time period depicted. Events like Medgar Evers being killed, sit ins, and the march on Washington are treated as news items of the day and passed over. Anything truly horrific happening only happens to 3rd tier characters or as a side note, and this just makes the whole thing feel rather glossed over. The author also tries to include one "good" story of the relationship between a white woman and "her help" for every "bad" story, which does not seem a likely distribution. The book is also written from changing points of view, which is not a style that I am crazy about.
On the other hand, I did enjoy reading about some of the relationships described in this book. Aibileen is such a loveable character and the way she cares for Moe Mobley and her friends makes the reader sad to see that when she goes home she is all alone. Minny is much rougher around the edges and not as kind and trusting, but she also develops friendships that she would not have thought she could. There are some funny or heart-touching moments, but not any real suspense or too-difficult-truths really dealt with. A light, easy read, not a memior of a difficult time.