The Help

As those of you know who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, I winged my way southward to Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend to address the BAWG at their summer writers’ retreat, where I also met with the southern contingent of From Women’s Pens.  While there, I checked out progress on my son’s newly renovated home (See How to Survive a 203K Mortgage) and enjoyed a nice visit with him as well.

Although I was born and spent my early childhood years in the Midwest, I have spent much of my life in the South, and I felt my heart as well as the plane lift from the runway at BWI when I finally got started.  More on my trip in next week’s blog post.

The last few weeks have been full of preparations for this journey, as the staff of Annie Acorn Publishing LLC have prepared contracts, designed book covers, edited manuscripts, held planning sessions, sent flurries of emails, and developed long lists.

Personally, I’m a Sticky Note Queen and an Outlook Calendar Junkie.  I have no choice but to admit it.  Those who know me well would put up a billboard at a prominent point on I-95 if I tried to deny it.

Throughout these frenetic activities, I frequently noticed out of the corner of my eye commercials for the movie version of Kathryn Stockett’s New York Times Best Selling novel, The Help (Movie Tie-In), which I have been surprised to see billed as a comedy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I have no objection to Hollywood taking liberties with story lines, as long as an author has given their permission.

In fact, I have thoroughly enjoyed both Frances Mayes novel, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Hollywood’s film version of the story released under the same name.  While different, they both captured the beauty of the area, the food, and the wine, as well as the spirit.  I have both read the book and watched the movie several times over, each giving me pleasure in its own way.

To me, though, the trailers for the movie version of The Help (Movie Tie-In) are misleading, and I don’t understand it.  The movie itself tries hard to be true to the book, for which I admire those who participated in its production, so why not stand behind their hard work?  Why dodge the bullet, so to speak?  Why deny the story as it stands?  Why call forth an audience under false pretenses?

As a history major who lived in the deep South from the mid-‘50s into the new millennium, there were times when I found Ms. Stockett’s book hard to read due to the tension that filled me.  In her wonderful way, the author had developed three-dimensional characters that were so real to me I remained in a constant state of concern for their safety, as the help depicted put their lives and the lives of their families on the line in an effort to send a message to a world beyond theirs who might understand.

The tension grew until I would literally have to take a break from the book, and yes, peppered throughout, there was humor – thank goodness!   Finding a release through occasional laughter allowed me, in the end, to keep going until I read the book to its end.  But make no mistake about it, this book was not meant as a happy-go-lucky comedy.

The Help (Movie Tie-In) will not be a book that I will reread.  There won’t be a need to do so.  The book’s images, as well as those of the times, are so seared on my brain that I can call them forth easily at will any time – lessons learned that we shouldn’t forget.

This having been said, go to the movie.  If Hollywood has filmed more of a comedy than the book truly was, then laugh and enjoy it.  If the producer and director have remained close to the book, then hold onto your seats and perhaps have your eyes opened.  In either case, stop by your local bookstore on your way home, and pick up a copy of Ms. Stockett’s book.  It would be a shame if, even having seen the movie, you missed it.  The author’s griping prose deserves to be read, to hold you in its grasp, and to help you truly understand what it felt like to live through those times in that place.

Annie Acorn

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