Cover image for Book Club kit : The help
Book Club kit : The help
Publication Information:
New York : Amy Einhorn Books, c2009.
Physical Description:
v. (451 p.) ; 24 cm. + 1 discussion guide
In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters--view one another.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader Grades 9-12 4.4 23 Quiz 135979 English fiction.
Geographic Term:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Book Club Kit BOOK CLUB 1

On Order



The #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film--a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't--n ominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read .

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure.

Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town...

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Four peerless actors render an array of sharply defined black and white characters in the nascent years of the civil rights movement. They each handle a variety of Southern accents with aplomb and draw out the daily humiliation and pain the maids are subject to, as well as their abiding affection for their white charges. The actors handle the narration and dialogue so well that no character is ever stereotyped, the humor is always delightful, and the listener is led through the multilayered stories of maids and mistresses. The novel is a superb intertwining of personal and political history in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, but this reading gives it a deeper and fuller power. A Putnam hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 1). (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s is a city of tradition. Silver is used at bridge-club luncheons, pieces polished to perfection by black maids who yes, ma'am, and no, ma'am, to the young white ladies who order the days. This is the world Eugenia Skeeter Phelan enters when she graduates from Ole Miss and returns to the family plantation, but it is a world that, to her, seems ripe for change. As she observes her friend Elizabeth rudely interact with Aibileen, the gentle black woman who is practically raising Elizabeth's two-year-old daughter, Mae Mobley, Skeeter latches ontothe idea of writing the story of such fraught domestic relations from the help's point of view. With the reluctant assistance of Aibileen's feisty friend, Minny, Skeeter manages to interview a dozen of the city's maids, and the book, when it is finally published, rocks Jackson's world in unimaginable ways. With pitch-perfect tone and an unerring facility for character and setting, Stockett's richly accomplished debut novel inventively explores the unspoken ways in which the nascent civil rights and feminist movements threatened the southern status quo. Look for the forthcoming movie to generate keen interest in Stockett's luminous portrait of friendship, loyalty, courage, and redemption.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2010 Booklist

Guardian Review

It's not often you get an Oscar-winner reading an audiobook, but even without Octavia Spencer, who bagged Best Supporting Actress this year for her part in the film of Stockett's bestseller, this would still be one of the most enthralling novels I've ever heard. I almost didn't bother with it, having briefly sampled the movie on a long-haul flight recently. Good books rarely turn into good films. With four narrators, this is more like a radio play, which must surely be an advantage in a story where not just what people say, but the accent and the tone in which they say it, is all-important. It's set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, when Ku Klux Klan lynchings were shrugged off by the police (exclusively white, of course - remember what happened to Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night, when he was sent from New York to help the local cops investigate a Bible Belt murder?). The book's title refers to the black domestic servants or "maids", as their genteel white employers call them. While their submissive, long-suffering, uncomplaining house slaves clean, cook, scrub, wait on and look after the children, their mistresses play bridge and work out whose turn it is to host the next baseball match party where their husbands, all alumni of Ole Mississippi University, will gather round the wooden television set in the parlour to cheer on their team, the Ole Miss Rebels. They know nothing about the harsh living conditions of their black servants. They support Miss Hillie's campaign to make outside lavatories for black maids obligatory in white homes. Getting them to use the guest bathroom is not enough - coloured people carry infectious urinary diseases. And when Miss Eugenia Phelon, worth 25,000 cotton dollars but still unmarried at 23 and nicknamed Skeeter because she looks like a mosquito, asks her mother why she has to sit with two of her help shucking oysters on the verandah, Mrs Phelon whispers: "you cannot leave a negro and a negra together unchaperoned. It's not their fault, they just can't help it." But Skeeter has initiative. She writes to a New York publisher about her ambitions to be a journalist and is tersely advised that she should first find a subject she feels passionately about. So she does. The Phelons' help, Constantine, who has been with the family for 30 years, suddenly leaves. Why? No one will say, so Skeeter asks Aibileen, her friend's maid, not just about her beloved substitute mother but about what it's like to work for white people. The New York editor is impressed. Martin Luther King has called for a massive anti-segregation march on Washington for the following August. If Skeeter could produce a controversial book by then . . . Like Skeeter, Stockett has found her subject - a great story, beautifully written and brilliantly told. - Sue Arnold It's not often you get an Oscar-winner reading an audiobook, but even without Octavia Spencer, who bagged Best Supporting Actress this year for her part in the film of Stockett's bestseller, this would still be one of the most enthralling novels I've ever heard. I almost didn't bother with it, having briefly sampled the movie on a long-haul flight recently. Good books rarely turn into good films. With four narrators, this is more like a radio play, which must surely be an advantage in a story where not just what people say, but the accent and the tone in which they say it, is all-important. It's set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, when Ku Klux Klan lynchings were shrugged off by the police (exclusively white, of course - remember what happened to Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night, when he was sent from New York to help the local cops investigate a Bible Belt murder?). - Sue Arnold.

Kirkus Review

The relationships between white middle-class women and their black maids in Jackson, Miss., circa 1962, reflect larger issues of racial upheaval in Mississippi-native Stockett's ambitious first novel. Still unmarried, to her mother's dismay, recent Ole Miss graduate Skeeter returns to Jackson longing to be a serious writer. While playing bridge with her friends Hilly and Elizabeth, she asks Elizabeth's seemingly docile maid Aibileen for housekeeping advice to fill the column she's been hired to pen for a local paper. The two women begin what Skeeter considers a semi-friendship, but Aibileen, mourning her son's recent death and devoted to Elizabeth's neglected young daughter, is careful what she shares. Aibileen's good friend Minnie, who works for Hilly's increasingly senile mother, is less adept at playing the subservient game than Aibileen. When Hilly, an aggressively racist social climber, fires and then blackballs her for speaking too freely, Minnie's audacious act of vengeance almost destroys her livelihood. Unlike oblivious Elizabeth and vicious Hilly, Skeeter is at the verge of enlightenment. Encouraged by a New York editor, she decides to write a book about the experience of black maids and enlists Aibileen's help. For Skeeter the book is primarily a chance to prove herself as a writer. The stakes are much higher for the black women who put their lives on the line by telling their true stories. Although the expos is published anonymously, the town's social fabric is permanently torn. Stockett uses telling details to capture the era and does not shy from showing Skeeter's dangerous navet. Skeeter's narration is alive with complexityher loyalty to her traditional Southern mother remains even after she learns why the beloved black maid who raised her has disappeared. In contrast, Stockett never truly gets inside Aibileen and Minnie's heads (a risk the author acknowledges in her postscript). The scenes written in their voices verge on patronizing. This genuine page-turner offers a whiff of white liberal self-congratulation that won't hurt its appeal and probably spells big success. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

In 1960s Jackson, MS, three very different women are brought together by a project that attempts to tell the stories of black women in service. Brilliantly narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Two days later, I sit in my parent's kitchen, waiting for dusk to fall. I give in and light another cigarette even though last night the surgeon general came on the television set and shook his finger at everybody, trying to convince us that smoking will kill us. But Mother once told me tongue kissing would turn me blind and I'm starting to think it's all just a big plot between the surgeon general and Mother to make sure no one ever has any fun. At eight o'clock that same night, I'm stumbling down Aibileen's street as discreetly as one can carrying a fifty-pound Corona typewriter. I knock softly, already dying for another cigarette to calm my nerves. Aibileen answers and I slip inside. She's wearing the same green dress and stiff black shoes as last time. I try to smile, like I'm confident it will work this time, despite the idea she explained over the phone. "Could we...;sit in the kitchen this time?" I ask. "Would you mind?" "Alright. Ain't nothing to look at, but come on back." The kitchen is about half the size of the living room and warmer. It smells like tea and lemons. The black-and-white linoleum floor has been scrubbed thin. There's just enough counter for the china tea set. I set the typewriter on a scratched red table under the window. Aibileen starts to pour the hot water into the teapot. "Oh, none for me, thanks," I say and reach in my bag. "I brought us some Co-Colas if you want one." I've tried to come up with ways to make Aibileen more comfortable. Number One: Don't make Aibileen feel like she has to serve me. "Well, ain't that nice. I usually don't take my tea till later anyway." She brings over an opener and two glasses. I drink mine straight from the bottle and seeing this, she pushes the glasses aside, does the same. I called Aibileen after Elizabeth gave me the note, and listened hopefully as Aibileen told me her idea--for her to write her own words down and then show me what she's written. I tried to act excited. But I know I'll have to rewrite everything she's written, wasting even more time. I thought it might make it easier if she could see it in type-face instead of me reading it and telling her it can't work this way. We smile at each other. I take a sip of my Coke, smooth my blouse. "So...;" I say. Aibileen has a wire-ringed notebook in front of her. "Want me to...;just go head and read?" "Sure," I say. We both take deep breaths and she begins reading in a slow, steady voice. "My first white baby to ever look after was named Alton Carrington Speers. It was 1924 and I'd just turned fifteen years old. Alton was a long, skinny baby with hair fine as silk on a corn...;" I begin typing as she reads, her words rhythmic, pronounced more clearly than her usual talk. "Every window in that filthy house was painted shut on the inside, even though the house was big with a wide green lawn. I knew the air was bad, felt sick myself...;" "Hang on," I say. I've typed wide greem . I blow on the typing fluid, retype it. "Okay, go ahead." "When the mama died, six months later," she reads, "of the lung disease, they kept me on to raise Alton until they moved away to Memphis. I loved that baby and he loved me and that's when I knew I was good at making children feel proud of themselves...;" I hadn't wanted to insult Aibileen when she told me her idea. I tried to urge her out of it, over the phone. "Writing isn't that easy. And you wouldn't have time for this anyway, Aibileen, not with a full-time job." "Can't be much different than writing my prayers every night." It was the first interesting thing she'd told me about herself since we'd started the project, so I'd grabbed the shopping pad in the pantry. "You don't say your prayers, then?" "I never told nobody that before. Not even Minny. Find I can get my point across a lot better writing em down." "So this is what you do on the weekends?" I asked. "In your spare time?" I liked the idea of capturing her life outside of work, when she wasn't under the eye of Elizabeth Leefolt. "Oh no, I write a hour, sometimes two ever day. Lot a ailing, sick peoples in this town." I was impressed. That was more than I wrote on some days. I told her we'd try it just to get the project going again. Aibileen takes a breath, a swallow of Coke, and reads on. She backtracks to her first job at thirteen, cleaning the Francis the First silver service at the governor's mansion. She reads how on her first morning, she made a mistake on the chart where you filled in the number of pieces so they'd know you hadn't stolen anything. "I come home that morning, after I been fired, and stood outside my house with my new work shoes on. The shoes my mama paid a month's worth a light bill for. I guess that's when I understood what shame was and the color of it too. Shame ain't black, like dirt, like I always thought it was. Shame be the color of a new white uniform your mother ironed all night to pay for, white without a smudge or a speck a work-dirt on it." Aibileen looks up to see what I think. I stop typing. I'd expected the stories to be sweet, glossy. I realize I might be getting more than I'd bargained for. She reads on. "...;so I go on and get the chiffarobe straightened out and before I know it, that little white boy done cut his fingers clean off in that window fan I asked her to take out ten times. I never seen that much red come out a person and I grab the boy, I grab them four fingers. Tote him to the colored hospital cause I didn't know where the white one was. But when I got there, a colored man stop me and say, Is this boy white? " The typewriter keys are clacking like hail on a roof. Aibileen is reading faster and I am ignoring my mistakes, stopping her only to put in another page. Every eight seconds, I fling the carriage aside. "And I says Yessuh, and he say, Is them his white fingers? And I say, Yessuh, and he say, Well you better tell them he your high yellow cause that colored doctor won't operate on a white boy in a Negro hospital. And then a white policemangrab me and he say, Now you look a here-- " She stops. Looks up. The clacking ceases. "What? The policeman said look a here what?" "Well, that's all I put down. Had to catch the bus for work this morning." I hit the return and the typewriter dings. Aibileen and I look each other straight in the eye. I think this might actually work. Chapter 12 Every other night for the next two weeks, I tell Mother I'm off to feed the hungry at the Canton Presbyterian Church, where we, fortunately, know not a soul. Of course she'd rather I go down to the First Presbyterian, but Mother's not one to argue with Christian works and she nods approvingly, tells me on the side to make sure I wash my hands thoroughly with soap afterward. Hour after hour, in Aibileen's kitchen, she reads her writing and I type, the details thickening, the babies' faces sliding into focus. At first, I'm disappointed that Aibileen is doing most of the writing, with me just editing. But if Missus Stein likes it, I'll be writing the other maids' stories and that will be more than enough work. If she likes it ...; I find myself saying this over and over in my head, hoping it might make it so. Aibileen's writing is clear, honest. I tell her so. "Well, look who I been writing to." She chuckles. "Can't lie to God." Before I was born, she actually picked cotton for a week at Longleaf, my own family's farm. Once she lapses into talking about Constantine without my even asking. "Law, that Constantine could sing. Like a purebred angel standing in the front a the church. Give everbody chills, listening to that silky voice a hers and when she wouldn't sing no more after she had to give her baby to--" She stops. Looks at me. She says, "Anyway." I tell myself not to press her. I wish I could hear everything she knows about Constantine, but I'll wait until we've finished her interviews. I don't want to put anything between us now. "Any word from Minny yet?" I ask. "If Missus Stein likes it," I say, practically chanting the familiar words, "I just want to have the next interview set up and ready." Aibileen shakes her head. "I asked Minny three times and she still say she ain't gone do it. I spec it's time I believed her." I try not to show my worry. "Maybe you could ask some others? See if they're interested?" I am positive that Aibileen would have better luck convincing someone than I would. Aibileen nods. "I got some more I can ask. But how long you think it's gone take for this lady to tell you if she like it?" I shrug. "I don't know. If we mail it next week, maybe we'll hear from her by mid-February. But I can't say for sure." Aibileen presses her lips together, looks down at her pages. I see something that I haven't noticed before. Anticipation, a glint of excitement. I've been so wrapped up in my own self, it hasn't occurred to me that Aibileen might be as thrilled as I am that an editor in New York is going to read her story. I smile and take a deep breath, my hope growing stronger. On our fifth session, Aibileen reads to me about the day Treelore died. She reads about how his broken body was thrown on the back of a pickup by the white foreman. "And then they dropped him off at the colored hospital. That's what the nurse told me, who was standing outside. They rolled him off the truck bed and the white men drove away." Aibileen doesn't cry, just lets a parcel of time pass while I stare at the typewriter, she at the worn black tiles. On the sixth session, Aibileen says, "I went to work for Miss Leefolt in 1960. When Mae Mobley two weeks old," and I feel I've passed through a leaden gate of confidence. She describes the building of the garage bathroom, admits she is glad it is there now. It's easier than listening to Hilly complain about sharing a toilet with the maid. She tells me that I once commented that colored people attend too much church. That stuck with her. I cringe, wondering what else I've said, never suspecting the help was listening or cared. One night she says, "I was thinking...;" But then she stops. I look up from the typewriter, wait. It took Aibileen vomiting on herself for me to learn to let her take her time. "I's thinking I ought to do some reading. Might help me with my own writing." "Go down to the State Street Library. They have a whole room full of Southern writers. Faulkner, Eudora Welty--" Aibileen gives me a dry cough. "You know colored folks ain't allowed in that library." I sit there a second, feeling stupid. "I can't believe I forgot that." The colored library must be pretty bad. There was a sit-in at the white library a few years ago and it made the papers. When the colored crowd showed up for the sit-in trial, the police department simply stepped back and turned the German shepherds loose. I look at Aibileen and am reminded, once again, the risk she's taking talking to me. "I'll be glad to pick the books up for you," I say. Aibileen hurries to the bedroom and comes back with a list. "I better mark the ones I want first. I been on the waiting list for To Kill a Mockingbird at the Carver Library near bout three months now. Less see...;" I watch as she puts checkmarks next to the books: The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois, poems by Emily Dickinson (any), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. "I read some a that back in school, but I didn't get to finish." She keeps marking, stopping to think which one she wants next. "You want a book by...;Sigmund Freud?" "Oh, people crazy." She nods. "I love reading about how the head work. You ever dream you fall in a lake? He say you dreaming about your own self being born. Miss Frances, who I work for in 1957, she had all them books." On her twelfth title, I have to know. "Aibileen, how long have you been wanting to ask me this? If I'd check these books out for you?" "A while." She shrugs. "I guess I's afraid to mention it." "Did you...;think I'd say no?" "These is white rules. I don't know which ones you following and which ones you ain't." We look at each other a second. "I'm tired of the rules," I say. Aibileen chuckles and looks out the window. I realize how thin this revelation must sound to her. Excerpted from The Help by Kathryn Stockett All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.