Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Recommended Reading: 'The Help'

Last weekend was a lazy one for me. I spent most of my time resting, sipping on peppermint tea and reading "The Help." I've been reading this book for a while now, and wanted to share it with you, but I figured I should finish it before recommending it to anyone else.

This book ranks among my other favorite novels: "East of Eden," "Mrs. Dalloway" and "Secret Life of Bees." And I think it took me so long to read because I wanted to savor each word and capture each detail. They're currently filming the movie in Jackson, and I can't wait to see how the movie interpretation stacks up to what I visualized as I read the book. So far, Emma Stone looks nothing like how I pictured Skeeter.

In a nutshell, the book tells the story of several maids working for white families in Jackson during the civil rights movement. It mixes fiction with history, including the death of Medgar Evers and the marches led by Martin Luther King.

In some ways, the book reminded me of the housekeeper who worked for our family for years. Her name was Verse (I'm not even sure I'm spelling that right, but it's pronounced Ver-see), and she worked for my family before I was born up until my early teen years.

When Chris and I were out of school during the summer, we stayed home with Verse. I think Verse probably preferred the days we weren't home creating messes where she had just cleaned. She was not shy about disciplining us when necessary, but I knew Verse loved us.

Verse picked us up from school sometimes. I still think about that when I see cars that look like hers. Felt fabric was stapled to the interior roof of her car, and Chris and I couldn't help but pick out the staples when Verse wasn't looking. She didn't like that very much.

It would be easy to simplify Verse's role in our lives and say that she was just a housekeeper, but Verse was there during some of the hardest times for our family. She was there when both of my mom's parents passed away. And she was there during my parents' divorce, and I think that time was difficult for her, too.

I never heard or saw Verse again once she stopped working for our family. But on her last day of work, she asked me if I would give her a picture of our family. I don't know where Verse is now, or if she's still living, but I think about her often and the influence she had on my life.

And I think she often looked at the picture I gave her that day and thought about us, too.