21. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Finally got my hands on this one, and it was worth the wait. The story takes place in 1960s Mississippi and is told through the eyes of three women: Aibileen, a servant and nursemaid at the Leefolt house; Milly, the maid to newcomer Celia Foote and former maid to the mother of Hilly Holcombe, the town Queen Bee; and Skeeter, a young white woman who has just returned home from college and is best friends with Hilly and Elizabeth Leefolt. Aibileen has been helping raise young white children most of her life, and grows very fond of her current charge, Mae Mobley - a good thing because you get the impression that Elizabeth Leefolt married and had children merely as a social obligation and not because she has any interest in her offspring. But she has also become bitter and disillusioned after the death of her son, and how his medical care was handled (or, not handled) by his superiors in Jim Crow south. Minny is regarded as the best cook in town, but is also considered too sassy to be a maid and struggles both to keep a job and to keep her dignity both on her job and with her increasingly abusive husband. Skeeter is growing increasingly disenchanted with the town she grew up in and her mother's insistence that she marry, as is expected. But Skeeter has other ideas, including the wish to be a serious writer. She comes up with the idea to talk to the town's maids, to get their perspective on what life is like for them. However, Skeeter has little idea of the can of worms she is opening when she first approaches Aibileen with the idea. Eventually, Aibileen and several other maids agree to participate in the story project after a series of incidents persuade them for the need for a change in the status quo. The results when the book is published are bittersweet- there are changes, both for good and bad.
Currently reading: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.