The Help—a non-review book review

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. You’ve all read it, I’m sure. Probably years ago, right after it was published, when it was on the best seller list for many weeks, months, years. I knew about it, of course, even watched the movie, which was wonderful and made me fall in love with Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis. Why on Earth did it take me so long to pick up this book and start reading it?

I never used to watch a movie based on a book without first reading it. Back when I used to read two or three books a week, before chat forums, before blogs, before social media, before menopause. Menopause, or actually peri-menopause, those days of hot flashes, night sweats, brain befuddling, short-term memory loss, was my first downfall. After being a voracious reader since I was six, when I suddenly understood that all those black marks on the page actually meant something, and were orderly and brought joy to a little girl who didn’t have much, but had the public library, all of a sudden, I couldn’t focus on reading more than a paragraph at a time. I would pick up a book only to put it down a few minutes later, because my mind was on twenty different things that I should be doing, anything rather than reading. That went on for years. I still loved books. Still bought them, still checked them out of the library, but they mostly went unread.

Then came the idea that I wanted to have my own chickens. By this time we had moved to the country again, the Bear Swamp Road mini-farm. I was raised a farm girl with chickens running around my feet, but I knew absolutely nothing about raising them myself. I bought a couple of books from Tractor Supply, but I needed someone with first-hand experience. I was getting into the computer in a small way, after resisting for many years, so I Googled “raising chickens.” Such an innocent term, little did I know that the first thing that popped up would be a forum on the Backyard Chickens website. I latched onto that forum and soaked up all that knowledge like a dry sponge and spent many, many hours there, and when I finally got my sixteen chicks, all that I had learned really helped me not make too many mistakes. I also met a woman on there who had a blog. After reading some of her posts, I thought, I could do this blog thing. And I was ready to leave the forum. There were people on there with whom I didn’t agree, and I didn’t like the way some things were going, so it was time to move on.

That was the beginning of Bear Swamp Reflections. I jumped in with both feet, not really knowing what I was doing, but plunging ahead anyway. I loved it, and when I finally started getting some attention with the help from a few lovely blog friends, it felt wonderful getting positive feedback from others who were doing the same thing, and who really seemed to like what I had to say. I don’t have a lot in common with my family other than memories and family history, and now I had a new family. It was a wonderful way to communicate my thoughts and feelings, and I learned a lot about writing.

Then, along came social media with Facebook being the foremost. I resisted for a long time, but my sister and my niece wooed me with pretty words about getting in touch with old friends and staying connected with family. One hit was all it took, and I was hooked. I was looking up old school friends right and left, posting pictures, pithy sayings that I borrowed from other clever people who put them on instantly postable pages. Pretty soon I was posting to my blog less and less. I just didn’t have time anymore to write. Facebook was my new addiction, and I had to have it morning, noon, and night. I discovered that I’m an all or nothing kind of girl, and apparently with the attention span of a gnat. Then the new started to wear off. I suddenly remembered why I had never stayed in contact with most of the people I went to school with (and a lot of my family). Because I really didn’t like them all that much. I was popular in school, but most of them didn’t know my nerdy side, and the ones who did didn’t really understand it, or me. I went back and forth sporadically, quitting Facebook for a few months, only to let something drag me back into it, usually my sister. Then, all of a sudden, about six months ago, I decided that was it. I was done, and I wasn’t going back, no matter what. I was going to read.

I started in on the hundreds of books lining my shelves, but was slowed down again in the move process. Then I realized a few months ago that an extension of my reading was my writing. I really, really missed it. I know I’m never going to win any awards or publish any books (remember the attention span thing?), but I missed being funny and snarky and talking about things with like-minded people, my loyal and true blog friends who have stuck with me through thick and thin, who have been there to laugh at my silly musings, who have cried with me and shared my broken heart and made me feel a little better with your virtual hugs and beautiful words. You are a big part of my family.

What The Help comes down to is family. The families we were born with, where sometimes we don’t seem to fit just right, where we love our parents and our siblings and extended family, but sometimes the connections are because we are related by birth, and not by ideas. Skeeter loved her family, but she came to love the family of comrades with whom she collaborated to write her book, “the help”, those women who sometimes sacrificed their own families to care for their white families, and were most often treated like less than the family pet. Women about whom she had never given a second thought until she lost her beloved Constantine, the woman who loved and raised her from an infant. This book moved me so much, to tears on a few occasions. Of course, I knew about the injustices of living in the South and being born with the wrong color of skin, but hearing the stories in those women’s voices really touched me. And I will end with this, my highest praise for a book, I wanted it to never end. I wanted to keep on reading about Skeeter and Aibileen and Minny until I could no longer read. My second highest praise—I will probably read it again.

See you soon,

Susan

15 thoughts on “The Help—a non-review book review

  1. Man-oh-man I gobbled this up. By about the third paragraph I had to remind myself of the title, and knew you would get back to The Help sooner or later (loved the book as well, haven’t seen the movie) but was totally willing to follow you down whatever you were going. This is the thing about how you write, SusanSusie – you make the reader want to be there with you. You pull me in, make me laugh, get me nodding in recognition, and really, really make me like you. You might be snarky, but you’re never mean and that’s a nice balancing act. The things that are in your head and heart are genuine and wonderful and the fact that you can put them across so well is the icing on the cake.

    I am so very glad that you came back here. I kind of miss you on FB, but if it came down to a choice of here or there, it’s no contest. As far as the reading thing goes, I was like you – a voracious reader as kid and a young adult, then less so for many of the same reasons (minus the chickens). But it was really WWF that killed reading for me, and I have to get a handle on that. Well, I have already started. I hadn’t read A SINGLE BOOK in months, almost a year, because my reading time, which is the same as my bedtime, was given over to playing that damn game. Very troubling. Also like you (this is getting tedious, how alike you and I are) I am easily distracted and kind of all or nothing. Unlike you, I was not popular in high school, phew.

    I’m learning from you. And I thank whatever lucky star put the two of us together. Maybe I should write about that. I love tracing the path of how people met, and marvelling at how close things might have come to not meeting at all.

    Thanks, Susie. You’ve made my day.

    xoxoxoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deb, you and I were meant to be friends. Call it kismet, fate, lucky star, what have you, it was meant to be. It still seems so surreal that we have never actually been in each other’s presence, not counting spiritually, of course. 🙂

      I always try to be true to myself and write what is in my heart, and I think I’m getting better at it as I go along. I’m doing a little better at editing, too. Ha! Usually after I’ve posted. Smirk.

      When I first read what you said about WWF, I thought, what is she talking about? Did she suddenly develop a weird interest in wrestling?? (World Wrestling Federation) Hahahahaha! Then I realized you were referring to Words with Friends! OMG! I am so weird! Lady, we can stop doing that any old time. I would much rather you read some good books than piddle about with silly word games. But if you want to continue, that’s okay, too. I also play Lexulous (basically the same thing) with another friend and we currently have about 25 games going. Lalalalala, I love distractions. 🙂

      I don’t miss FB, but I would certainly miss you if I didn’t get to talk to you on here. There’s also email, if you want.

      I just love being back here, and here is where I’m gonna stay.

      Love, Susie

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  2. Susan,
    I haven’t read The Help, but I think I’ll get it. I did see the movie. It was excellent. I usually read the book first, too. I hate for the movie to ruin the book for me, but if I read the book first, it gives me all the details that the movie cannot possibly give in two hours.

    I read the blog of another woman who raises chickens. A ferrel cat killed two of them a few days ago. She was pretty upset about it. You guys make me want to try it, but it’s only a fantasy. The dogs next door would jump that fence in a NY minute if I did that.

    Two friends convinced me to join FB a few years ago. It didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t for me. My nieces keep begging me to go back, but I don’t see it happening. Blogging is another matter. I get the same pleasure from it that you do. It’s so satisfying to have a way to say/write about what you care about, have a conversation with others, and visit their blogs. I enjoy it so much.

    I know I’ve told you, but I’m very glad you’re back. You belong here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bella, I went to the library yesterday and got the movie to watch again. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I want to see how it compares now after just reading the book. Of course, the book is always better, but I love it when Hollywood can do a good book justice. Kudos to those who do.

      I loved having the chickens and the eggs, but there are definitely drawbacks. I didn’t like having the poop all over the place, or cleaning out the coop. And when you want to go away for a few days, you can’t put them in a kennel. Someone has to take over for you. I was lucky to have neighbors who would look after them, but not everyone has that someone.

      Thank you so much for helping make me feel at home in this place. You are right. I belong here more than I’ve ever belonged anywhere else.

      xoxoxo

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  3. Tons of glorious meat in this post, Susan. You are SO right about the blog community being the family we choose for ourselves. And sometimes it takes dancing around lots of other things to come back to that — the prodigal blogger! I do FB and it’s OK for a good keep-in-touch or sharing photos and I do see some interesting links, but most of it I just don’t read. (I was brought into FB because when I was working I had to manage social media for our television station and we had several FB pages, so we had to have our own, too. Now I manage our theatre’s page so I’m still in it from an administrative — which means posting and monitoring — point of view). I really limit my time there, flying through news, doing moderate clicking. But it does tell me things I might miss out on otherwise — a scary sort of personal news. Moderation. Trouble is if you don’t moderate, it can be a time sink.

    So can blogs, but they are a rewarding one. You follow the people you like, who make you laugh or think or feel ‘like you.’ I never regret my blog time and I always miss it if I’m traveling or off line. It’s always sad to me when a blogger I enjoy drops out, so I’m so very very glad you are back.

    The Help — I read the book first, then saw the movie. The book is much richer, as you know — and reading it gives you the time to savor and think about it as you go. But I thought the film was a good adaptation. They couldn’t put everything in and keep it to time and I think they did a pretty good job of keeping the best and most relevant points. But, like so many things, the book is better. And you are so spot on in your observation that it is about family and fitting in — on every level. Nice!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I wonder why you can’t reply to my comments? Is it because I’m WordPress? I have another blog friend who says she can’t comment on mine, because of not having a Google+ account. Hmmmm….

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        • Susan, I ‘m not sure how wordpress reply comments work, but a good person to ask might be Linda (Shoreacres) or Becca Rowan (of Write on Wednesday, Beccarowan.com) — They are both wordpress blogs and when they comment their email comes up so one can reply to comments personally. I know in blogger, I had to set something but don’t remember what — it was so long ago — in my account. I’m not sure about your non-google friend. On blogger there is something called open ID (basically, your blog url). I don’t blog in WP but have an account because of some other stuff.

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    • Jeanie, thank you for always reading and commenting. On BSR I did let it take up a ton of my time, but I’m trying not to do that here. I’m happy with my little group of followers, and I don’t get bogged down in having to visit thirty or forty blogs like I used to. That was like a full-time job. I don’t intend to get caught up in challenges and what-not either. This place is just for my writing and talking to my friends. Thank you for being here, and for being a friend. 🙂

      xoxoxo

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  4. I saw “The Help” when it hit the theaters, but never read the book.Truth to tell, I probably never will. It’s not that it wouldn’t be worthwhile, it’s just that my reading and research time is limited as it is.

    I had the same experience you did with Facebook, except I lasted only six weeks. I know many, many people who spend an hour to three hours a day there, and all I can think is: what? Now, if I had different work, or a family spread across the country, it might be a different thing. But with no family to speak of and work that doesn’t require being in contact with anyone other than my customers, it doesn’t make sense. Besides, I don’t like the security/privacy concerns with FB, or their ability to determine what’s seen in timelines.

    I do have a very slight presence on Twitter. It’s good for passing links or quick base-touching, but I’m not one who gets involved in the hashtag games or 140 character conversations/arguments that take place there. And so much of what’s passed around there is the same information, retweeted a thousand times. I’d rather have some real conversation — like on our blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda, when I think of all the time I wasted on FB, it makes me shudder with the stupidity of it, and why I did it, when I could have been here writing, or at least reading books. I have a Twitter account, but I only follow it for the postings of a TV series that I’ve been watching on Starz, and a few political people that I follow. I’ve never once “tweeted.” 🙂

      I love the conversations we have here. It is enlightening and gratifying in a way that people who don’t do it don’t understand. Thank you for being here, and for being a friend.

      xoxoxo

      Like

  5. My dear Sister, I love reading your blogs no matter what they are about, you sweet little nerdy thing you. You are my guiding light, just in case you didn’t know. I would love to read but my attention span is so darn short, I can only read about one paragraph at a time, but that book you are talking about sure does sound interesting, I may have to give it a try. Hugs and love to you, from my heart to yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy, my dearest sister, my heart, I hope you know that I was not referring to you and our relationship when I said there were family members to whom I don’t feel close, and who don’t understand me or share the same philosophies. What in the world would I ever do without you, the person who I can always count on to be there for me, no matter what? I wouldn’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have you in it. I’m happy that you visit me here and want to read what I have to say.

      Love you, forever and ever, amen.

      Like

  6. One of my favorite books of all time! I was a bit disappointed by the movie though. I rarely reread books, but this one is that good! Have you read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild? Very good read, and the movie was even better than the book in many ways. Being a native Oregonian, and occasional hiker, it resonated with me. If you see it, take Kleenex. I noticed you’re not on FB, and that’s okay (as long as you’re blogging and we can stay in touch). Most of the time I keep my FB account just so I can quickly message people, but am actually getting together with people I’ve reconnected with there…so there’s that.

    I look forward to your posts here, my friend. Keep sharing! xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cindy, we go all the way back to Backyard Chickens, don’t we? Goodness, that seems like forever ago. I’ve watched your lovely daughter grow up, too.

      I watched the movie when it first came out on DVD, so I can’t remember all the finer points, but as I told Jeanie, I’m planning to watch it this weekend to see how they compare. I know which one will win, but I’ll give it a chance anyway.

      I haven’t read or seen Wild. I want to. I’ll put it on my list. We went to see “The Imitation Game” last weekend and I really want to read the book that it was based on. I’m on the waiting list at the library. I’m number 70. Maybe I should just buy it. It’s an awesome movie. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

      I love being able to talk to you here and on your blog, and Instagram. Thank you for being a loyal friend. 🙂

      xoxoxo

      Liked by 1 person

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