Yes, Yes. The Help by Kathryn Stockett was our Reading Is Cheaper Than Therapy book club book right before the movie hit the theaters. And I was number 97 on one library's waiting list and 48 on another's. And I didn't want to buy the book. As luck would have it, Cousin Ashley bought the book and then saw the movie. And she doesn't read books after she's seen movies, so she offered it to me and I gladly accepted.
HURRAY. Better late than never.
Anyway, it seems like everyone and their slightly illiterate half sister have read this book (and been wildly raving about it) so I'm not going to bore you with a synopsis. Rather, I thought I would answer one of the questions from the reading guide. The question that most riled me up when I was reading over them. I almost feel like I'm writing an essay for Mrs. Stevens or Mrs. Frye.
What do you think motivated Hilly? On one hand she is a terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can't control her. Yet she's a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother and, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?
It's hard to say exactly what motivated Hilly, because the story has three narrators and she's not one of them. But from what I read, I think it's control and power. I could go on to discuss how racist I believe she is but I think that falls under the control and power heading. And also hatred, ignorance, faulty truth and complete lies.
I have a hard time believing Hilly is a "wonderful mother" as the question leads. If I remember correctly, she's only characterized as a wonderful mother once and that was by Aibileen when Hilly had her two kids over playing in Elizabeth's backyard. Aibileen said," One thing I got to say about Miss Hilly, she love her children. About every five minutes, she kiss little Will on the head. Or she ask Heather, is she having fun? Or come here and give Mama a hug." She goes on to mention how the way Heather looks at Hilly makes Aibileen want to cry because that kind of love is so beautiful.
But really, that's the only example of how Hilly is a "wonderful mother." She's affectionate towards her children. And they idolize her.
Later in the book, Elizabeth is invited to the very exclusive country club that Hilly is a member of to go swimming. Despite the fact that Elizabeth is Hilly's best friend, Aibileen muses that she's been to the country club more than Elizabeth and actually directs her to the pool. It later becomes apparent to Aibileen that the only reason Elizabeth was invited is because Hilly's maid called in sick and Hilly knew that Elizabeth would bring Aibileen along to look after their three collective children. So, Hilly may love her children and hug and kiss them, but she's hardly a hands on mother.
But does that make her a bad mother? The fact that she (or her husband) pays a woman to tend her house and watch/raise her children. Not necessarily. Wealthy people have had governesses, nannies and babysitters for hundreds of years. And certainly women who work outside of the home and have children with nannies and in daycare aren't bad mothers. Instead they are seen as doing what's best for their family. Putting their children in capable hands when they aren't able to be there themselves.
So, why do I think Hilly is not a wonderful mother? You know that saying that someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person? Just because Hilly was nice to her children (two little people she has control over) and rude/hateful/ignorant/cruel to an entire race of people does not make her a nice person, a lovely person and esp not a good mother. I'm sure there are crack whores out there who are affectionate to their children and that doesn't make them good mothers.
Teaching your children willful ignorant hate is pretty much the opposite of being a good mother. I understand this book was set in the 1960's and maybe in 1960's terms, Hilly was a wonderful mother. But it's 2011 and Hilly is not a wonderful mother in 2011.
In summation, I will answer your question with a question: Can you be a good mother if you're not a good person?
Anyway, I really enjoyed the book. It wasn't as dark as I was expecting. And I flew threw it. I think I read the whole thing in about a day and a half. Kathryn Stockett really tells a wonderfully interesting story in a wonderfully interesting way.