The Help
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The Help

4.5 18429
by Kathryn Stockett

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Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but…  See more details below


Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends-view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
If you've enjoyed the southern charm of Fannie Flagg or The Secret Life of Bees, you'll find The Help a delight. Miss Eugenia Phelan ("Skeeter" to her friends) is a young woman of privilege who enjoys her fellow Junior Leaguers but sometimes finds their ways at odds with her own principles. She plays the part of her station in 1960s Mississippi but can't help feeling dissatisfied with keeping house and acting as recording secretary at league meetings, and yearns for something more.

Minny, Miss Celia, Aibileen, and Yule May are maids employed by Skeeter's friends. Each woman cooks, cleans, and cares for her boss's children, suffering slights and insults silently and sharing household secrets only among themselves. In the wake of the Junior League push to create separate bathrooms for the domestic help within private homes, Skeeter contacts a New York book editor with an idea. Soon she's conducting clandestine meetings with "the help" to capture their stories for publication. It is a daring and foolhardy plan, one certain to endanger not only the positions but the lives of the very women whose stories she transcribes -- as well as her own.

Stockett is a wonderful novelist, and The Help is a charming, thoughtful novel about women finding their voices, and the truths we see when we have the courage to look unflinchingly into the mirror. (Spring 2009 Selection)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.47(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

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 policeman grab 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.

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What People are saying about this

Lush, original, and poignant, Kathryn Stockett has written a wondrous novel set in the deep south told through the authentic voices of Aibileen, Minnie, and Skeeter, three unforgettable women whose lives and points of view intersect vividly against a landscape of hopeful change in America. You will be swept away as they work, play, and love during a time when possibilities for women were few but their dreams of the future were limitless. A glorious read. --Adriana Trigiani, author of the Big Stone Gap series and Lucia, Lucia

A magical novel. Heartbreaking and oh so true, the voices of these characters, their lives and struggles, will stay with you long after you reluctantly come to the end. --Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South

Set in the rural South of the 1960s, The Help is a startling, resonant portrait of the intertwined lives of women on opposite sides of the racial divide. Stockett's many gifts-a keen eye for character, a wicked sense of humor, the perfect timing of a natural-born storyteller-shine as she evokes a time and place when black women were expected to help raise white babies, and yet could not use the same bathroom as their employers. Her characters, both white and black, are so fully fleshed they practically breathe-no stock villains or pious heroines here. I'm becoming an evangelist for The Help. Don't miss this wise and astonishing debut. --Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama

A wonderful book. A compelling and comically poignant tale about three women, and a time and a place that are in many ways very much still with us. --Beth Henley, author of Crimes of the Heart

I love The Help. Kathryn Stockett has given us glorious characters and a powerful, truth-filled story. Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter show that people from this troubled time came together despite their differences and that ordinary women can be heroic. --Jill Conner Browne, author of the Sweet Potato Queens series

The a story that made me weep as I rejoiced for each of humanity's small but steady triumphs over hate and fear. I will never forget this wonderful book. --Dorothea Benton Frank

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The Help 4.5 out of 5 based on 7 ratings. 18429 reviews.
Tarasview More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVED this book. Kathryn Stockett did an amazing job. I loved how the story was written from the perspectives of the different women. I enjoyed seeing the world through their very different eyes and watching them develop throughout the story. The beautifully descriptive writing drew me in and made me feel like I was right there. This is an intense story of how these different women deal with the issue of racism during the civil rights movement. It is a poignant and deeply moving novel. I didn't want the book to end. I think this book would make an amazing movie as well. I would highly recommend this book to everyone.
evanescenceSE More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have read. It's touching, inspirational and absolutely unforgettable. From the beginning of the book I was drawn in, felt with the characters and learnt from them. Awesome read- that will want you to put this book on your top shelf.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Download the help for free from here
1Katherine1 More than 1 year ago
Kathryn Stockett has written a marvelous book -- the southern voices are right, the stories of the women draw you in with their resourcefulness and courage. Memphis, where I grew up, was where the Delta began, and she described that world perfectly -- the maids in their uniforms, the restrictions, the distrust. I couldn't put it down, but then I was sorry when I finished because I wanted to read more about Skeeter and Minny and all the others. I hope she writes a sequel.
theReader278 More than 1 year ago
This was a fun read. I loved the story. Can only recommend.
LCH47 More than 1 year ago
Set in Mississippi in the 1960's, Stockett captured the personalities of the black maids and Southern Belles so perfectly, it read like a non-fiction biography. What an inspiration to human beings everywhere! The insight into human behavior couldn't have been done better! This book should be mandatory reading in every school curriculum! Touching! Heartfelt! Heartbreaking! Uplifting! Inspiring! Such compassion! Such strength! Such perseverance! Such courage! This is a TRUE MASTERPIECE!!! Some other books I've read that left their messages imbedded in my mind forever, I recommend...
MangoCE More than 1 year ago
I originally purchased this as an audio book for a 15 hour cross country drive. The characters fostered such a range of emotions in me that all that mental activity just kept me charged up for the entire drive. The author offers first person narration as a tool for getting the reader inside the head and heart of the books main characters. There is tension and suspense and alot of humor. Thank heaven for the humor! When I was finished with the audio book, I gave it to this friend and that friend to take on their trips, but I so missed Skeeter and the other characters that I went out and bought the book, so I can carry it with me and read the characters' narrations at different points in the book. I haven't enjoyed anything about the South this much since Credence Clearwater Revival's Southern Rock or Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lastmate More than 1 year ago
I became completely immersed in the story of the 3 main characters. As a resident of a border state, I remember taking a Greyhound bus through southern states as a young teen enroute to visit my Grandfather in FLA during the early 60's, and being apalled at the "white" and "colored" signs on restrooms, drinking fountains, etc., and the shantytowns we traveled through. And I remember my own working Mom hiring a black woman to do some ironing in our home, and wondering when and how she could do that all day, 6 days a week for different families, and still take care of her own 5 young children. Later, I knew people in CA whose Mexican maids and nannies raised and loved their children, though the employees' own kids the same age or younger, had been left behind with relatives. I suppose that still goes on. This book makes you think about segregation, civil rights and the race/class divide in the south like Uncle Tom's Cabin made people think about slavery. I understand why H.B. Stowe, a white woman, had to be the one to open our eyes about slavery in 1857--but not why a gifted black author didn't beat Kathryn Stockett to the presses with an equally-well-written (as The Help) account of life as experienced by domestic servants in white southern households during the pre-civil-rights era.
mooneab More than 1 year ago
Such an amazing book. My only expectation going in was that it was on the bestsellers list, and I've heard a lot about it. I didn't realize what an addicting story these three women had me in store for. It was suspenseful at times, touching, supremely entertaining, and finally wonderfully pulled together. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in quite a few months. If you haven't read it yet, please pick up a copy and get to it!
curlyjessi More than 1 year ago
I jsut finished this book yesterday, and I was suprised that I liked it as much as I did. A friend of mine recommended it to me, and it's not typically the type of book that I usually pick. However, with that being said, I'm so glad that I gave this a chance. I felt that the author did a great job with the dialect of the maids, and that she captured the time period in the South perfectly. I will recommend this book to my family and friends.
-JACKI- More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful portrayal of the painful, unfair bias and prejudice of the time but also about human kindness, goodwill, and fairness. I loved the different vantage points, so the reader can see into the thought process of all concerned. This is full of wonderful lessons to us human beings, some probably won't GET IT but I'm quite sure most will be brought to tears if there is a heart beating in their chests!
Love2Read68 More than 1 year ago
I have seen this book every time I went to the bookstore. But the cover never really kept me captivated enough to want to go buy it. Over Christmas my sister-in-law recommended it to me. But I was skeptical. A week later I was getting my car oil changed and another woman was reading this book. She was halfway through it and recommended it. I had just gotten a nook and decided to download the book. I could not stop reading it. It's not "thrilling" or "suspenseful". But it is by far a beautifully written novel that makes you think about the lives of the women in the south in the 60's and the huge discrepencies between people at that time. I didn't want the book to end and towards the end I was crying. The book did indeed feel as if you were watching a movie. I do hope they make this book into a movie. I would recommend this book 10 times over anyone. This is a must read!
maggieNJ More than 1 year ago
I am midway through this book and am totally involved in the story and the characters. For a first novel this is beautifully done. Others have given more detailed reviews, all I can say is, read it.
DoodlebugNC More than 1 year ago
I am a voracious reader who enjoys bestsellers, classics, poetry, all types of literature. This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is touching, inspirational, a compelling plot and characters. When I finished it, I had chills all over! Must read for anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up on a whim. No previous knowledge about the book or the author. Absolutely loved reading it and in the dialect it was written, at times, was a joy to read it out loud. This was a very touching story about people and the times in which they lived. I had a few laugh out loud moments and shed a tear as well. Reminds us all to remain vigilant and keep the word of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
emnara_jayne More than 1 year ago
I woke up early and stayed up late to read this book! I finished it in 3 days. I enjoyed the writing style and the flow although I do feel that as it wraps up it becomes less realistic. This book sparked a debate between my husband and I regarding whether or not a white writer is capable of portraying a black woman in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's. I was pleased to see in the author's note (in the back of the book) she addressed this issue as something she greatly struggled with. No one can be fully put into another person's shoes but the struggle to understand each other is how we grow as a human collective. I highly recommend this book. It was an easy read, I felt I was able to connect and care about the characters, and its thought-provoking.
gazebo More than 1 year ago
I had seen this book on the bestseller lists for ages, but didn't think it was something I would be interested in. Finally I broke down and bought it and discovered a great new book! Now, I've sent the book to my mother, sister, and friends.
Saspants More than 1 year ago
I was riveted to my Nook while reading this book. I felt such attachment to the so many of the characters. We all have a "Hilly" in our lives, someone who no matter how hateful and undeserving, seem to have everything. I love Aibileen and her love for the children she cares for and how she tries to teach them to be positive about themselves and others, we are all the same no matter our color. In all honesty I think Minny is my favorite, she is a little firecracker of a woman who speaks her mind no matter the consequences. You know you are really enjoying a book when you are casting characters in your head for the movie and I hope this does get made into a movie. Wonderful story.
granbyjillo More than 1 year ago
This was recommended from several friends. Once I started reading, I couldn't wait to pick it up. Best part was the character development. Second was the subject matter. Having always lived in the Northeast, it gave me lots to think about.
MysticTravel More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I purchased for my Nook. It was so good that I went and bought a "real" copy for my daughter and sent it to her. I sat down with it for a few minutes just to get the "feel" of it and 3 hours later, I was still reading it. I read it nearly straight through and was sorry when I finished it the next day. It left me wanting to know more. The only real criticism I have is that the ending was a bit flat. I recommend this to anyone who likes to know all sides of a story. You will love the characters, even the ones you don't like!
angiej More than 1 year ago
At first I was a bit skeptical about this book since its based in 1960s Jacksonville, Mississippi but I couldn't put it down! The author did a very good job of creating a positive relationship between black and white southerners while at the same time exposing the negative effects of racism during that time. I would recommend this book to anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just couldn't put this book down! I found myself reading it any spare moments I had--at the park with my kids, during my lunch hour at work, sneaking a page here and there... It read like a gossipy television soap opera, but still gave me pause to think about my life and how I choose to live it, and how we all affect those around us. I regretted reaching the last page and wish I could continue to peek into the lives of these wonderful women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have at least one hundred books on CD and this is the best I have ever heard. Each reader does their character to perfection and the story line has's heartwarming, sad, shocking, funny and with a good ending. I got the unabridged version and, as luck would have it, I got the flu the day the package arrived so I was able to listen to the whole story almost non stop. What a treat. I'm sure I will play it many times. This book is a treasure.
AvidReader8 More than 1 year ago
I was captivated by the characters and storyline from the first page! The author maintains a delicate balance between the characters while helping the reader understand the separate worlds the characters occupied. It is very true to the South of the 1960's. The plot is not contrived and the author's style of writing keeps you intrigued. I had a hard time putting this book down once I started.
ajreinecke More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It brought the 1960's into real life for me and made me feel the pain that blacks had to of felt during that time being treated so poorly. It's amazing how things have changed! I recommend this book to everyone, it's a great choice for a book club book...we had lots to discuss!