The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2009 Penguin Audio, Unabridged Edition
Finished on 2/16/10
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)
Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. White ladies playing bridge and sipping ice tea. Colored maids cooking, cleaning, and loving the white babies. The separate, intertwined paths of these worlds are going to collide. Audio is THE way to be inside this story, brilliantly cast with four voices. The separate casting of the three voices of Stockett's debut novel is astute. Jenna Lamia embodies Miss Skeeter, the young aspiring writer who starts a project that disrupts her privileged and predictable world. Lamia's genteel Southern tones can pass off ingrained prejudice with chilling comfort, screech with outrage, and subtly reflect Skeeter's growing resolve and self-discovery. Bahni Turpin and Octavia Spencer contrast the voices of hot-headed Minny and thoughtful, inspiring Aibileen. Their musical speech and emotional connection to the characters are riveting. Listeners are swept up in the story--shocked and reminded by the times; inspired and proud of these women. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.
I reviewed The Help just about a year ago this month (read my review here), but wanted to post a quick write-up about the audio version. I very rarely listen to audio books. My commute is less than 15 minutes each way and I just don't spend that much time in my car. However, a good friend loaned me this audio book and said I simply had to give it a listen, even though I'd already read the book. She was so enthusiastic, I couldn't turn her down. And I'm so glad I didn't. What an experience! I fell in love with the book all over again. The readers are all superb and I quickly became engrossed in the story, looking for reasons to drive all over town so I could continue listening. (Why I didn't just copy the discs over to my iPod, and listen while walking on the treadmill, is beyond me. Next time!)
One of the advantages to listening to an audio book is hearing the pronunciation of names and locations, as well as hearing the accents and emotion in the dialogue. I don't know if it's due to a second "reading" that the story is more ingrained in my memory, or whether it's due to the process of listening to it being read aloud, but I feel like I'm able to recall more detail about the plot and remember the characters' names better than when I just read a printed book. Whatever the reason, I'm quickly becoming a fan of audio books and have decided this is a great way to "re-read" some of my favorite books.
Final thoughts: Even if you've already read The Help, I urge you to listen to the audio book. What a superb performance.
Oh, and if you haven't heard the news, Dreamworks Studio has acquired the rights to The Help. You can learn more here.
And, if you've got some free time, take a listen to this marvelous interview between Kathryn Stockett and Katie Couric.
Can you tell I'm a huge fan of this book?! I can't wait to see what Stockett has in store for us next.