Last week was quiet at Turnrow. Except for the long-stalled birth of Kelly's beautiful, healthy baby girl (both are resting at home, Kelly staring compulsively at the new child instead of reading), and a visit from Kathryn Stockett, whose debut novel, The Help, is shaping up to be one of spring's hottest novels.
A Mississippi native, Ms. Stockett mined the people and experiences of her Jackson upbringing to produce an impressive first novel that explores the complex social strata of 1960s upper-crust society, where black maids raised white children but were mistrusted and degraded by their employers. Early reviews commend her dynamic characters and sophisticated portrayal of the time and subject matter.
Having been consumed with baby fever, we had not yet had the opportunity to read Ms. Stockett's book before her visit, but one of our best-read customers, Mary Carol Miller, had us covered.
"I picked it up with a great deal of trepidation, having been repeatedly stung by the recent 'Southern siblings reunite in Fairhope/Beaufort/Pass Christian/coast town du jour' genre, all of which have been stinkers," she told us. "Kathryn Stockett had far exceeded my expectations by the end of the first chapter, and I am now very slowly reading because I care about these characters and don't want them to finish.
"She has managed to speak, in a very believable voice, of two black maids and an iconoclastic sorority dropout. Everyone of my generation grew up with 'help' like these women, and I realize more and more as I grow older that there were layers of life experiences and wisdom that we were simply not privy to. It's like Kathryn managed to tap that core and put it in an authentic voice, not dialect but cadence. Amazing. Anyhow, I'm enjoying it more than anything I've read in several months and I will be pushing it off on everyone I know"
This is high praise from a serious reader. If only these two could have met, but Ms. Stockett was in a rush, scurrying through the Southeast at the kind of ludicrous pace only a New York publisher could exact on an eager young writer. We would really have enjoyed the dramatic reading by Ms. Stockett and her traveling companion, Octavia Spencer, an actress friend who has had loads of bit parts in big movies (Spider-Man, A Time to Kill, Legally Blonde 2) and dozens of television roles.
Ms. Stockett vowed to return once her whirlwind tour was complete. We're eager to start the book and invite you to do the same. We have signed copies if you're ready to read.