Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two Mini-Reviews-- Room and The Help (because I am lazy)

My goal is to do at least one review a week, so here I am. I've read quite a bit lately, but I don't really feel the urge to write about many of them in detail. So here goes two mini-reviews.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I'm sure you're really sick of hearing about this book. Perfect for mini-review status. The basic premise is that a mother and son are held captive in a single room. I had difficulty getting into this book at first. While I like the idea of Jack as a kid, I didn't really dig him as the narrator. It made me really uncomfortable. Maybe that was the point. For those who have read it, the creamy left (or right, I don't remember), seriously grossed me out. It took me a while to even feel comfortable with her nursing her then five-year old, but I can see how under the circumstances, maybe I would too if it increased his chances of survival.

Sorry for that random thought. I was really surprised with where the author went halfway through the book, but surprised in a good way. The effects on both captives in a situation like this span much farther than I had expected. I guess what shocked me the most, was to find that this actually has happened in real life. Several times. That made me a little queasy just typing that. What is wrong with some people!?! I would recommend Room, but with a few caveats. This is not light fare, and much of it is pretty disturbing.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I had zero idea what this was about when I started reading this. I was in for a bit of a shock when I started reading the narrative by Aibileen, an African-American maid working for a white family. I was really bothered at first that a white woman from a privileged background had the audacity to write a character with that dialect. Once I got to Minny's section, and realized that she had a unique voice, I settled down a bit.  Once it got going, it was a real page-turner (although Aibileen's sections were a little slower to get through because of the dialect). My husband was out of town when I started it and because I didn't have him to tell me to turn off the light, I stayed up way too late reading it. It was worth the lost sleep.

I loved that it took on race relations from a different point of view than anything I'd read before. Racism is most definitely learned. People aren't born that way. Parents (and even teachers as shown in the book) teach children to hate. Although, I have learned this through my own experience, I loved how Stockett showed this through Aibileen's experience raising white children. It was interesting also that this book also focuses on the effect of indifference. There were plenty that may not have agreed with what was going on, but their indifference or fear of others made them an ally to the racists. Overall, I would highly recommend The Help. It was a great story of courage in the face of losing everything. My only complaint was that I wished the story hadn't ended. I want to know what happened to Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. I really came to love them.

After finishing typing these, they aren't as mini as I was hoping. Whoops! 


  1. I loved both of these books, but for very different reasons. ROOM was so disturbing, but writing it from Jack's perspective made it bearable. I loved that The Help had a rotating narrative. It made the book much more interesting than if Skeeter or Minny, etc. had told the whole story.

  2. I was a fan of both books, too.

    My book club listened to a few of the voices on the audio of ROOM, and most of us were creeped out by Jack and his way too precious voice. I didn't mind him as the narrator when I was reading, though.

  3. Your mini reviews are as long as mine so no worries. ROOM was definitely disturbing and I think it was meant to be. It wasn't an easy read for sure.

    And I know what you mean about The Help but I read that Kathryn Stockett wrote from personal experience and I'm confident she got the dialect and phrasing and experiences right. It was such an involving book wasn't it?

  4. Melissa--I really liked Room, but it took me a little while to get into it. I think you're right. I don't think it would have worked if Ma had narrated. It would have been too dark. I don't think I fully appreciated her state of mind (because Jack doesn't fully understand it) until three-quarters of the way through.

    I did love the fact that there were three narrators. It was perfect. It worked so much better that way and I loved being able to see the other narrators through different eyes as the narration switched.

  5. softdrink--I had never thought about how weird it would be listening to the audio. That would be creepy. It took me a little while to appreciate Jack as the narrator, but ultimately I was okay with it. I think the author made the right decision. By the end, I'm really glad that I didn't have to see what exactly was going on in Ma's head the entire time. It would be too depressing.

  6. Jenners--I think you're right. Having Jack as the narrator made a specific impact. It took me a little while to reconcile that in my head, but I think it really worked for the book.

    I was taken back at first by the dialect, but I was okay with it once I realized that she wasn't generalizing that too all of "the help." It was interesting to read that Stockett grew up in a home with an African American maid. It's nice to know that she had some personal experience to draw on in portraying those relationships.

  7. For all the accolades they got I've yet to pick up any of these. I'm glad to hear you recommend them both! I'll make sure I'll save Room for when I'm feeling strong enough to face it, though.

  8. Room sounds a bit disturbing, but this is the first time I've read what it's about. I guess I'm a little out of it, lol!
    I also enjoyed the Help very much. I read it once and listened to it on audio for a book club.

  9. I haven't been able to bring myself to read Room, it sounds so disturbing!

  10. I haven't read Room, but I also really loved The Help. Somehow most people seem to like this book!

    I was a bit taken aback by the dialect at first, but I just accepted it and it was just fine.

  11. I need to take a page from you and try to write some minis as well. My drafted post for The Help is just...Title: The Help. ;)

    Like you I didn't want to story to end. I remember vividly when I finished it--sitting on the back porch after work on a Friday and I just hugged the book but was SO devastated it was done. Wish we could come across books like that more often, huh?

  12. Nymeth--I really liked both of them. Room is definitely one you'll need to be in relatively good place when your read. It's pretty difficult to get through at times, though ultimately hopeful.

    Shelley-I'm surprised this is the first you've heard of Room. It seems like I've seen it everywhere. That's why I didn't really feel like there was a need for another lengthy review. :)

  13. Selene--It is definitely disturbing, but I think the author's choice to narrate it from the point of view of the 5 year old boy, took the edge of a bit. In other ways it makes it a bit worse when you realize just how much that poor 5 year old understands. It's a difficult book, but I thought it was worth it.

    leeswammes--I'm glad I'm not the only one that struggled with the dialect at first. I think the author had good intentions so I'm okay with it now.

    Trish--I'm glad I'm not the only one that felt that way. I finished it at one in the morning and I remember not being able to get to sleep because I kept thinking about it. I mostly wanted to know if Minny would be okay.

  14. Glad to see another positive review of The Help. I have a copy on reserve at the library!

    Also, can't wait to hear what you think of Bag of Bones... Possibly my favorite Stephen King novel!

  15. Two Bibliomaniacs--I hope you enjoy The Help!

    Bag of Bones is my first Stephen King. I'm glad to hear it's one of your favorites.

  16. I am new to your blog, Kristi. I discovered it through Nymeth's blog and it looks wonderful!

    I enjoyed reading your reviews of 'Room' and 'The Help'. I loved 'Room' - it was one of my favourite books from last year. I am hoping to read 'The Help' sometime. I liked very much your observation - "Racism is most definitely learned. People aren't born that way. Parents (and even teachers as shown in the book) teach children to hate." It is very true. Thanks for this wonderful review!

  17. Vishy--Thanks for stopping by! Sorry it took so long to respond. I was out of town for the weekend. :)

    I'm glad you also enjoyed Room. It's such a unique book. I hope you get a chance to read The Help. It's a wonderful book.