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15 April 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (Audio Review)


Yes, yes. You know I've been struggling with audiobooks lately, right? But... it's probably not hard to figure out how incredible I thought The Help by Kathryn Stockett was with the these two clues:

I finished all eighteen hours in 2 and 1/2 days.

My husband loved it. And he only listened to the last four hours on our road trip Friday night.

I felt this story was an experience, and since it is written in the true Southern charm and dialect of extraordinary women, it's one I believe can only be fully appreciated by listening to the audio version.

I couldn't stop listening to it. Every waking, non-working moment while I traveled to Dallas for business last week was spent with this audiobook. While I applied my make-up or steamed my business suit before the meeting, I listened to the words of Kathryn Stockett come to absolute life in the voices of sweet Aibileen, sassy Minny, and young and compassionate Skeeter. Enraptured. That is what I was. Compelled by the music of the voices speaking through, I was swept up in this incredible story.

The Help is Kathryn Stockett's story of three women in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi. Not only was it a turbulent time in America's history with the beginnings of the civil rights movement, feminism, the rumblings of Vietnam, the assassination of Kennedy, and more, all of this was even more tightly drawn in Mississippi. Told from the three women's perspectives in their own chapters, Aibileen and Minny are maids working in the homes of white families, and Miss Skeeter is a young white woman who, like many others who grew up in wealthy white families in the South during that time, was raised by a black woman. And as Miss Skeeter is the idealistic young woman determined to become a writer, she is advised to write something that makes her uncomfortable as she composes it. It is only then when it is uncomfortable will it be something truly valuable. While each character has their own personal turmoil that they contend with privately, it is together that they find a common ground and friendship that is unshakeable. Kathryn Stockett has crafted a classic of the deep South and the black women who worked for, and raised, the white families in one of the most tremulous moments in American history.

Without question, I loved this story. Tears sprang to my eyes when the audio concluded. All stories have to end, but this one... this one I wanted to keep going. I immediately missed the characters as soon as it ended. The narrators excelled at relaying the perfect Southern charm into the rhythm and atmosphere, and as the book is written exactly as one would speak, the audio leaps to life and creates an experience unlike any other audiobook I have listened to. Because of this, and in advance of the film to be released by Dreamworks Studios this year in August, I needed to share with you these amazing narrators and where you can find them. I can't wait to do a deeper dive into the film's cast later as well. If Dreamworks can capture the same magic that Kathryn Stockett created in her writing that was beautifully produced in the audio version, then we could potentially see a multitude of Academy Award nominations issued in 2012.

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The narrators of The Help and their characters in this audio production (along with my thoughts):



Aibileen, narrated by Bahni Turpin. Aibileen is an older woman, having raised seventeen babies in her career. She is the voice of reason in the story, the one to which others seek out and find comfort in. With a gorgeous voice, Turpin is engaging through and through. There is just this easy fluidity to her narration that hypnotized me each time Aibileen's sections came up. And she was perfect for the voices of the children, the ones Aibileen cared for. I found myself smiling, easily picturing in my mind her interactions with the little girl Mae Mobley.

I have become a diehard fan of Bahni Turpin and loved her voice so much that I have just downloaded the audiobooks Precious and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks since she's the narrator for both!


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Minny, narrated by Octavia Spencer. A sassy woman who could possibly be the best cook in all of Mississippi, Minny has a hard time holding down a steady job because she's not one to keep her thoughts to herself. If she doesn't like something, why hold back? Octavia Spencer had the perfect voice! I laughed each time Minny interacted with Miss Celia, a sweet Marilyn Monroe-esque woman who suddenly is launched into high society when she left her poor upbringing to marry a wealthy man. The problem is that she can't take care of her house, and even cooking is a disaster. She secretly hires Minny for these things so she can hopefully impress her husband. Octavia Spencer's voice sparkled in the tough scenes of an abusive relationship with her husband and then later made me cheer out loud. Loved, loved her. I cannot imagine anyone else reading for Minny and can't imagine anyone else playing her in the film.

So, according to Entertainment Weekly, I was thrilled that Octavia Spencer is going to play the role in the film! Yay!! She is also a veteran actress of Hollywood and has also known Kathryn Stockett for ten years and was a factor to the inspiration for the character of Minny.
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Miss Skeeter, narrated by Jenna Lamia. The character of Miss Skeeter has graduated from college and returned to Jackson, Mississippi. Miss Skeeter was raised by a black woman named Constantine, one that she considers more motherly than her own blood. But now Constantine left after years working for the family, and no one is talking about why Constantine left. Was she fired, or did she quit? Haunted by this absence in her life, Miss Skeeter also doesn't want to be like every other girl in Jackson who gets married and has kids, and is instead determined to be a writer. Jenna Lamia carries the voice of this naive and sweet young girl to the forefront. Her voice smoothly cut through the story to poignantly deliver the youthful idealism representative of the 1960s.

Audiobook listeners may also recognize her from The Secret Life of Bees, which placed her as a finalist for Best Female Narrator in 2003, and Girl With a Pearl Earring. She also is an established actress and was in The Fighter, alongside Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg.

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About the Author
Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her family. The Help is her first novel.

Visit the author on her site by clicking here.
Vist the author on Facebook by clicking here.

Happy Reading (Listening),
Coffee and a Book Chick

25 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about getting this one on audio. I think you've sealed it for me. I must do it!

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  2. Jason sure was a good sport to listen to the end of that audio book with you!

    I haven't read the book yet and I'm beginning to think I'll be the last person on Earth to experience it. I'm sure I'd love it too.

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  3. This is, hands down, my favorite audio book ever. I'm usually not into multiple narrators, but it was perfect for The Help, and I'm SO excited that Octavia Spencer is going to be Minny.

    I was like you - I was late everywhere while I was listening to this - work, dinners, meetings, etc - because I could not get out of the car! I keep telling people that even if they've read the book, they can't truly appreciate The Help unless they listen to it. So darn good...I might have to listen again after reading your review!

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  4. I read this book last summer and loved it. I think I would also like to listen to the audio because it has such great narrators!

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  5. I read the book and loved it, but I can see that with the right narrators, this book is even better as an audiobook.

    Glad you enjoyed it so much!

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  6. Fabulous, fabulous post. THE HELP is my all-time favorite audiobook!

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  7. I loved this book, and heard the audio was excellent. I am looking forward to the movie.

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  8. Glad you enjoyed this - I loved this book. (My review is here: http://samstillreading.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/the-help-by-kathryn-stockett/ )

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  9. I love this book. It will always be memorable for me. It accompanied me to my flight to NY, February, 2010, an hour flight that became 7 hours. I guess the title Help was so apropo, LOL.

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  10. I absolutely LOVED this book when I read this last year, but I'm eager to listen it on audio as well. I've heard the audiobook is absolutely well-done, so I'm glad that you agree with that too!

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  11. I loved this book! So glad you enjoyed it as well. I'm actually looking forward to the film version of it - lots of great actresses in it. Let's just hope its as good as the book.

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  12. I am like the last person in the entire world who has not read this book yet, but I do have a copy on my shelf, I really do! I loved this review so much, and if there was anything stopping me from picking this up before, it is all gone now! Thanks for creating such a great piece about this book. I am super excited to read it now!

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  13. I finally know what I'm going to do with next month's audible.com credit!Thanks, CaaBC!

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  14. This Book was amazing! I cast aside studying for my finals for this book!!!!

    Great review! Pop past the blog and say hi!

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  15. I love this book so much I don't even have words. I had put off reading it thinking it couldn't live up to the hype but, my goodness. One of the best books I've read in such a long time. Now hearing your review I'm going to have to listen to the audio book. I love the idea of different voices for the main women. I love the actress who voiced Minnie and am so glad she has the role in the move. I'm looking forward to (and am a bit nervous) about the movie.

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  16. As a lover of audiobooks, I am sorry that I read this one instead of listening to it after reading your review. I missed out ;o(.

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  17. I still have not read this book! I may be the last book blogger to not have read it, but I plan on picking it up this summer. It feels like a summer read.

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  18. The audio of this was so fantastic!!!!

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  19. I haven't read this yet, and have kind of been on the fence, as I kept thinking it's one of those books that's emotionally manipulative. Love the review though - maybe I should just get it on audio...

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  20. i love your new updated look!
    and this review is superb!!! the help was my favorite adult fiction book last year - before i fall was my favorite ya fiction....so glad you loved both too!

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  21. This is on my list to read. I have heard so many good things about it. I don't usually do well with audio books...I guess I'm not a good listener but your review makes me think that I would be successful with this one.

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  22. I loved this book, but I've heard such incredible things about the audio version that I wish I had listened to instead of reading the hardback.

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  23. I didn't listen to book on audio, but I will do so sometime before the movie is released. I am a huge fan of audio books for the exact reasons you described above! Thank you for showing us the faces behind the voices.

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  24. I have read so many great things about The Help! I really want to read it! I don't listen to audiobooks, but this one sounds too good to pass up!

    Taming the Bookshelf

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  25. I read the book myself, but I can imagine that the audio version would be fantastic! I am so looking forward to seeing developments on the movie.

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