You can read the Goodreads summary of The Help here.
I've been wanting to read The Help for awhile, but my aversion to buying hardcover books (because the expense mostly) kept me from doing so. Meanwhile, the wait list for the novel on PaperBackSwap.com was hefty, so I was very happy to see it in a Valentine's Day package from my mother-in-law. Three days after receiving that package, I've read the book and I can tell it's going to be on my list of top books read in 2011. I actually think this novel might be considered something more than just a "good" or "great read." I think it might be a legitimate piece of literature.
I majored in history in college and one of my more favorite eras to study was the Civil Rights Movement, something this novel is unequivocally about. Set in 1963 and 1964 Jackson, Mississippi, the novel takes on three different perspectives: that of Aibileen, a black maid to a wealthy white family, Minny, another maid, and Skeeter, a recent college graduate who lives with her parents and is quickly becoming fed up with the way the maids are being treated. That, combined with her desire to have a career in journalism, sparks Skeeter to write a book from the maid's perspectives.
The vernacular took a few chapters to get used to, but after that flowed easily. The book is wonderfully written. Historic details are interspersed throughout, including references to Kennedy's assassination, putting a man on the moon, and the hippie counterculture in California. As I read I found the novel to be historically accurate, which is always a plus. Stockett was born and raised in Mississippi, so she knows what she's talking about and she knows how to use the vernacular correctly. On top of that, the book had some humor, and I was laughing out loud on more than one occasion.
This book has been on the bestseller list for who knows how long and there's a lot of hype surrounding it. It's definitely warranted and I can't recommend this book enough. A movie version is set to be released late this summer and I'm definitely excited to see how it compares to the book.