I don’t know about you, but I love giving books as gifts because, more often than not, I get to borrow them at some point and read them myself. When my darling sister Stephanie asked for a copy of The Help for her birthday, I was happy to oblige. I’d heard Amy Einhorn, who published the book, describe its debut and a few friends gave it rave reviews. So as soon as Steph was done, I hightailed it over to her apartment and spirited it home.
The Help is Kathryn Stockett’s first novel; to date it’s sold about a million copies. It’s also the first book published by Amy Einhorn when she launched her imprint; a seasoned editor, she talked about how the voice that leaped out at her from the very first page grabbed her attention — and about how excited she was after plowing through a small sea of manuscripts to come across one with characters that captivated her. I know what she means. You have to love a woman, real or imagined, who worries about having a “Cadillac arrest” — what an image!
Looking at how mutltiple characters are handled in a book with popular appeal can be very instructive. There’s quite a crew of them in The Help, but somehow, the author manages to give them all not just distinctive stories, but distinctive voices as well. She does this, not just through the thoughts and speech patterns she conveys in their dialogue, but by infusing each character with a special quality — a kind of playful sparkle — that shines through their words.
A friend of mine said that after reading The Help she did something unusual for her: she borrowed an audio version from the library. She found it every bit as enjoyable the second time around and said the characters’ voices were even more unique and flavorful via the spoken word. Now that’s a great book!