Picks and Pans Review: The Help

updated 02/23/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/23/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Kathryn Stockett |

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In early-'60s Jackson, Miss., where this wise, poignant first novel takes place, Jim Crow laws allowed whites to insist that their black maids use only designated bathrooms as they labored long hours in their employers' homes. Imagine the fireworks, then, when two housekeepers and an unlikely ally, a white Junior Leaguer, write a book about maids' lives. Their efforts shake up the city's pernicious social hierarchy, and their own lives change forever. You'll catch yourself cheering out loud.

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