I just hope she ain’t so country she don’t own a Hoover

tarnished silver

I know an antique when I see one. I've worked in some fine homes.

We moved on and it starts to look like any nice white house. Except this one’s the biggest I’ve ever been in and full of dirty floors and dusty rugs, the kind folks who don’t know any better would say is worn out, but I know an antique when I see one. I’ve worked in some fine homes. I just hope she ain’t so country she don’t own a Hoover.

“Johnny’s mama wouldn’t let me decorate a thing. I had my way, there’d be wall-to-wall white carpet and gold trim and none of this old stuff.”

“Where your people from?” I ask her.

“I’m from… Sugar Ditch.” Her voice drops down a little. Sugar Ditch is as low as you can go in Mississippi, maybe the whole United States. It’s up in Tunica County, almost to Memphis. I saw pictures in the paper one time, showing those tenant shacks. Even the white kids looked like they hadn’t had a meal for a week.

by Kathryn Stockett
from The Help, 2009
Chapter 3 – Minny
image – Mr Thinktank

Painting a Pretext

Some books set the stage every few paragraphs. The author gives readers context, pretext, subtext, foreshadowing, a sense of history… all sorts of layers are part of being in the landscape.

Will you zoom through along a story line, or roll around in the atmosphere? Is this a familiar place, or a new walk?

Here, the passionate “help” and the woman from Sugar Ditch who’d do things differently if she had her way are about to fit together like pieces of a puzzle; what one has, the other lacks – though they might not like it. Already we can guess that these two can learn from each other, but will they? I already want to know, and I’m rooting for both of them.

I can easily imagine people like me in bookstores, losing track of time after opening up to passages like this. I’d snap out of it halfway to the end, needing to sit down or change positions, but not wanting to put the book down.

This is Kathryn Stockett’s first novel. After 41 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list, The Help now sits at the top spot for hardcover fiction – quite the success story for a book that was rejected by “close to 50 literary agents” and panned by some reviewers.

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