It's no surprise that everyone was right about this book. It's an excellent story, and it dragged me in from the very beginning. There's an uneasy tension throughout the entire thing; in case you've been living under a rock and haven't heard, it's about black maids working for white families in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s. With such subject matter, it's no surprise that it's fraught with hostility. But what is surprising is that this hostility is accompanied by love and respect. There is only one character in the book who doesn't have a good side to go along with the bad.
One thing that caught my attention in this book is that not one of the characters is happy (although this does not make for anywhere near as depressing a book as you might think). Everyone is dealing with their lot in life and no one is whining or in a deep funk over it, but no one is content. Which is only right. They shouldn't be. But the most impressive characters are working to change what they don't like, and there is a beautiful thread of hope throughout the book.
While reading this book I was reminded of my great aunt and uncle who hosted a huge Christmas Eve party at their house in Virginia every December. Each year they hired the same black family to do all of the cooking and serving for the evening. That always kind of made me squirm. No one really talked about it--not that I recall, anyway--but I was uncomfortable with that strange sense of separation that belonged in another century. Now, after reading this book, I can't help but wonder what stories that black family would have told Skeeter.
Soon after Linda suggested I read this book, I saw what had to have been a group of ladies in a book club discussing it at a local restaurant. I still miss my book club that disintegrated four years ago, and I almost walked right up to their table and asked if I could join them, but then I noticed these were all old ladies. Not that there's anything wrong with old ladies, and I'm sure they would have been very polite and welcoming, but this wasn't like my old book club that had such an interesting variety of ages, all the way from me to a couple of septuagenarians (until we got our token college student, and stretched our age range even further). These women were obviously friends first and a book club second. Maybe if I keep my fingers crossed for long enough my friends will be interested in reading something other than James Patterson books by the time our hair is blue, and we'll be having our own book club at the local restaurant.