Tag Archives: cassandra campbell

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (unabridged audiobook read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell; 18 hrs on 15 discs): Aibileen and Minny are housemaids in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, who work for old friends of Skeeter (whose real name is Eugenia, but pretty much no one calls her that). Skeeter is the only one of her friends who didn’t drop out of college to get married, and is now back home after graduation, trying to figure out what to do with herself. She longs to be a writer, and with a little encouragement from a woman at a large New York publishing firm, she decides to write a book. She’s unsure of a topic until her friend Hilly’s “Home Help Bathroom Initiative,” encouraging all white families to get a separate “colored” bathroom installed in their homes for the help. According to Hilly, African Americans are genetically different from whites and carry special diseases. The idea that the very same person who cooks your food and cleans your bathroom would be so dirty as to require their own little stall out in the garage just baffles my mind. The double standard doesn’t end there, though. The white ladies of the Junior League regularly raise money to help “the poor colored children of Africa” and yet turn their noses up at the idea of helping the poor colored kids of Jackson. In secret, Skeeter and Aibileen write a book about life from the point of view of the help, conducting interviews with numerous maids around the city, all the while knowing about the very real danger if the wrong people find out. Meanwhile, Minny is dealing with a tarnished reputation due to her lying former boss (Hilly), an abusive husband, and the strange secretiveness of her new employer, Celia. This book is touching, maddening, hilarious, sad, and ultimately uplifting. Now I want a sequel. I want to know what happens to Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter. I want to know how Mae Mobley turns out when she grows up. In short, this was an excellent book and completely unforgettable. Highly recommended.

A note on the audio: Unfortunately I have no idea which actress voiced which sections, so I’ll have to refer to them by their character names: Skeeter, Minny, Aibileen, and The Narrator. They were all so excellent, but I was especially impressed at how well they did at sounding like each other: Aibileen did a passable Skeeter and they all managed to give the same inflection to Celia. Aibileen’s voice for Mae Mobley as she got older was impressive as well. Skeeter wasn’t so good at Aibileen or Minny, but I loved her Mrs. Stein. The Narrator would have been fine on her own, but was so overshadowed by the others that her section stuck out a bit. All in all a great audio production.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult

Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult (unabridged audiobook read by Cassandra Campbell; 17 hours 20 min on 15 discs): When Paige was five years old, her mother left, abandoning her and her father suddenly one night. The story opens with Paige, as an adult, camped out on her own front lawn, barred by her husband from entering the house or seeing their infant son. Slowly, through flashbacks and memories, we learn about Paige’s childhood, her abortion as a teenager, her flight to Boston after high school, and her fast-paced relationship with medical student Nicholas and his affluent parents. As a wannabe sketch artist myself, I was drawn to Paige’s love for drawings and her mysterious talent for incorporating other people’s secrets into their portraits without realizing it or understanding its significance. I was also a little spooked by Paige’s early experiences with motherhood, as I imagine I would act the same way. My favorite character, however, was Astrid. She started out as a one-dimensional snob of a wicked mother-in-law, but later revealed herself to be an actual human being.

The story itself is just the sort of glurge I’ve come to expect from Picoult, but felt less like she’d come up with the plot from reading a couple of sensational headlines. No kidnapping or murder or suicide or courtroom scenes – just family drama. Sure, most of the conflict came from people not talking to each other (a pet peeve of mine), but I was more patient with that this time around, given how extraordinarily unapproachable Nicholas (whom I imagine as looking like Neal Caffrey) was. I wouldn’t want to talk to him either. In short, this book was decent but nothing spectacular.

A note on the audio version: Campbell was a good choice as narrator, with her natural voice seeming to channel Paige’s soft-spoken angst, while also handling Nicholas’s fury, Patrick’s Irish brogue, and Astrid’s aristocratic air without resorting to caricatures.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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