Deemed: Enjoyed, With Reservations
From the book jacket:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
I’m of two minds with his book. On the one hand, I love Southern fiction, quirky characters, and complicated female friendships. On the other hand, there are some problematic issues with the book, especially with the ending. However, I did find myself really enjoying the story and the characters.
First, the parts that I liked. The story was compelling and descriptively rich. It was easy to picture 196os Jackson, even if it was a rather tame version of it. The cast of characters was well-developed. The three narrators were entertaining and sympathetic. I felt myself drawn into their stories almost from the moment I started reading. The minor white characters don’t suffer from lack of description, either, though I would have preferred more description of the friend and family of the African American characters. The story is humorous, sad, and heartwarming.
As far as the rest, I actually read this book a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying to think of what I want to say about the issues and criticisms and I’m still not entirely sure. There are those I agree with (that the dialect is too exaggerated, the ending is too white-washed) and those I don’t (that it’s inappropriate for a white woman to write anything other than a narrator who is a white woman), but ultimately I guess I just don’t really know how to feel. As I mentioned, I do think people are focusing on certain things they shouldn’t. However, I don’t have the experiences or the history they do. I know how infuriating it is when a man tries to tell me I shouldn’t be upset or feel that something is wrong as a woman because obviously he doesn’t understand what it’s like. I don’t want to marginalize someone else’s experience because I can’t relate, either. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book.