Monday, March 29, 2010
Congratulations, you have just been introduced to the best book ever. It's true! I just finished "The Help" and am very tempted to pick it up and start it all over again, just to see what little morsels I may have missed. I have no shame in admitting I stayed up until one in the morning almost every night last week, just because I was absolutely riveted reading it that I couldn't stop myself, even with my sweet husband soundly snoring beside me. You know you've got a good book on your hands when you you sit there and think about it for a long while after putting it down. I could totally relate to my friend who said she found herself sneaking out to her car on her lunch break just to read it. We're talking new favorite, to replace "To Kill A Mockingbird" in the old #1 position. It is, in a word, incredible, and if you're a southern gal like me, I guarantee it will definitely make you think about what it means to be southern, and how much times have changed since the Civil Rights Movemement of the 60's. And a big fat thank goodness for that. I truly can't say enough about how much I loved this book. And apparently, others did too. Such as these guys:
"At turns hilarious and heart-wrenching...[A] pitch-perfect rendering. Readers are hooked."
"Thought-provoking...[Stockett's] pitch-perfect depiction of a country's gradual path toward integration will pull readers into a compelling story that doubles as a portrait of a country struggling with racial issues...This is already one of the best debut novels of the year."
The New York Times
"In 'The Help,' Kathryn Stockett's button-pushing, soon to be wildly popular novel...The two principal maid characters...leap off the page in all their warm, three dimensional glory. Book groups armed with hankies will talk and talk...[A] winning novel."
I felt such a kindred connection with Kathryn Stockett, the author of this wonderful novel. Like me, she's a southern girl, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Like me, she attended the University of Alabama (I went for my Master's) and was an English Major. And perhaps the neatest find of all? Like me, she had a close relationship with her nanny growing up, who affected her in a very meaningful way. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have the most wonderful, sweet-spirited woman that helped to raise me, and her name is Mattie Jackson.
Mattie was way more than a housekeeper for us - she actually helped to take care of my Dad, who is now 69 years old, when he was a little boy. (So yes, that puts Mattie in her 80's now). Our family cherishes her just like she is one of our own. Because in a way, she is. Ah, I could just cry thinking about her. She used to leave handwritten notes in my room telling me that I was beautiful, that I was smart, and that I had an amazing life ahead of me. And I promise you, I kept every single one of those notes I ever found. I actually found one in my bible the other day, and it had me smiling for a straight hour all the way through church. She means that much to me. I have distinct memories of her spending the day with me, and a special place in my heart for her famous chocolate milk (extra-chocalately, please). Whenever I call her, she always tells me she is remembering me in her prayers, and whenever I go by to visit her at Christmas, she beams at me and shows me how she still has my picture framed.
All this to say, the book absolutely touched me in a way that words can't really express. If you are lucky enough, as I was, to have someone like Mattie in your life, it has a profound affect on you that lasts well into your adult years. And to read a book that touches on that very feeling, and to relive what "The Help" used to go through to get to the point where we are today - it just changes you in a way that makes you so appreciative and so grateful to have had a far more positive experience than the book describes. They say in the book that good help is like true love - you only get one in your life. Mattie was so much more than "help" to us - she was an example of all that is good in this world, a prayer warrior, a smiling face, and more than anything, a friend. So here's to you, Miss Mattie Jackson - you'll never know how much I love you!
Mattie and Me, in Christmas 2004.