This book has been on my "to read" list for a while now. I read the review in the New York Times and I was intrigued by the idea of the story. As a History buff, the 1960's is one of my favorite time periods to study - in fact I even wrote my senior thesis in college on Jim Crow Laws from Reconstruction through the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
It always amazes me how Americans could spout the ideals of equality and freedom, while denying these same ideals to a large portion of the American population. When I read about Hilly's Home Help Sanitation Initiative, which encourages white families to install separate bathrooms for their colored help to prevent the spread of diseases, I can't help but shake my head at the idiocy of the logic that prevailed during this time period. It's sad to think that people really did think that way. It's even sadder to think that there are still some groups in our society who still face these same issues, however one thing has been proven right again and again throughout our history - American might not always get it right the first time, or the second, but in the end equality and freedom always win.
I enjoyed the book and the characters' stories. I found myself laughing at some of the crazier stories, saddened by some, and outraged by some of the injustices faced by some of the characters.
I particularly liked a conversation between Aibileen and Minny where they talk about lines - "Aibileen shakes her head. "I used to believe in em. I don't anymore. They in our heads. People like Miss Hilly is always trying to make us believe they there. But they ain't.'" I thought it was an interesting concept - the idea of lines, and it made me think how often we stop ourselves from doing something because we are afraid to cross those imaginary lines. It's so easy to imprison ourselves in these lines without even realizing it, to hide behind them because it's easier than admitting that they really don't exist. That's what the Civil Rights Movement was all about - making people realize that these "lines" didn't exist - that there was no need for them.
The ending disappointed me a little. There was a huge build up to the question of what would happen after the book was published, but to me the resolution was almost nonexistent. I felt like I was on a roller coaster climbing the track for the expected plunge, only to reach the top and realize the coaster has run out of track, so it slowly just reverses back the way it came. The endings of the characters' stories were short and lacking detail. As I turned the last page, I found myself saying, "That's it?" Despite the ending, I did like the book. It's not one of my favorites, but definitely worth the read.