Really liked "The Help" - good story about the maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the late 50's early 60's timeframe. Compared to "Roots" or "the Book of Negros" this story is very light. However, the lack of control, and the distant second class status of these women is astounding. At best, they are probably treated like the best friend of your teenage child - loved, tolerated, but neither equal nor family, regardless of the length of time of relationship.
The "serial motherhood" of some of these women who specialize in the raising of younger children until approximately school age was eye-opening. The abruptness that a close family-type relationship can change to a "fired employee" relationship, or a "non-entity" relationship or even a "criminal-enemy" relationship is amazing for the suddenness and the randomness. Anyone (any white person) seems to be able to accuse "the help" of theft or other petty crime, and it's ballgame over, even if "the help" has been known to the family for decades.
The pseudo-auto-biographical nature of the story is done well, three individual perspectives provide a good investigation of he differing opinions and rationale(s) for behaviour. The aura of violence is pervasive, to the point of being accepted as a reality to all characters. The story doesn't particularly dwell on the violence, but the backdrop has JFK assassination, murder in the neighbourhood of a NAACP official, beating of the son of a perhipheral character in the story, and the real fear of the main characters of either severe ostracization (at best) or severe beating (more likely) if caught telling stories about their employers.
The story reads well, builds to an appropriate climax, and like all good books, seems to end too soon.