This week, both Entertainment Weekly and People get The Help, a first novel by Kathryn Stockett.
EW gives it an A- and notes that it works despite an unpreposessing premise:
The backstory is cringeworthy: A young, white first-time author — inspired by her own childhood relationship with her family maid in Jackson, Miss. — sets out to write a novel from the point of view of black maids in the midst of the civil rights era.
But finds it,
…graceful and real, a compulsively readable story of three women who watch the Mississippi ground shifting beneath their feet
The review ends with this kicker,
…When folks at your book club wonder what to read next month, go on and pitch this wholly satisfying novel with confidence
People gives it 3.5 out of a possible 4 stars and predicts the book will make you “cheer out loud.”
In prepub reviews, Publisher Weekly called it, “Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.” Kirkus, said, testily, “This genuine page-turner offers a whiff of white liberal self-congratulation that won’t hurt its appeal and probably spells big success.”
Most libraries have ordered a cautious number (one copy per large branch), typical for a first novel. Reserves are developing; two to one in some areas.
The Help is one of four titles on the first list from Putnam’s new imprint, Amy Einhorn Books. Einhorn left Grand Central last year where she was hardcover editor-in-chief to begin this imprint. In a letter introducing the imprint in Putnam’s Winter catalog (p37), she said she aims to hit “that sweet spot between the literary and the commercial,” which is certainly the hope of many editors. She has had a good track record in that “sweet spot” — at Grand Central, she worked with Robert Hicks (The Widow of the South), Susan Jane Gilman (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress) and Min Jin Lee (Free Food for Millionaires).
- Hardcover: $24.95; 464 pages
- Publisher: Putnam Adult (February 10, 2009)
- ISBN-10: 0399155341
- ISBN-13: 978-0399155345
- Audio CD: $39.95, Unabridged
- Publisher: Penguin Audio; (February 10, 2009)
- ISBN-10: 0143144189
- ISBN-13: 978-0143144182