You have got to put The Help, a debut novel by Kathryn Stockett, on your must-read list. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, this book is about the black women who work as maids, housekeepers and nannies for the town’s well-off white families. It’s narrated by two of those women, Aibileen and Minny, as well as a Skeeter, an Ole Miss graduate who comes home to her family’s cotton farm and begins to see the injustices in the white-woman-boss and black-woman-employee system she’d previously accepted unquestioningly. As the book unfolds and we learn more about how the white female bosses treated their black employees, you’ll be surprised, shocked and stunned — and never look at a Junior-League bake sale the same way again. But this isn’t a grim or humorless book. Stockett respects her characters and allows them to gently tell their stories in their own voices as we discover and examine along with (most of) them our own feelings about race and skin color. In fact, this book led to one of the most spirited discussions my four-woman book club has ever had as we each talked about our experiences growing up Southern during the Civil Rights ’60s and how those experiences affect our relationships with those who look different from ourselves. We talked about what exactly it means to be “racist” and were so grateful we’d read a book that made us examine prejudices we maybe didn’t even realize we had. But The Help is more than a chronicle of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement. It’s a delightful and uplifting story of the power of friendship, the strength of maternal love and the power of women’s determination to make a difference. Go to a bookstore, buy this book and then pass it on. You cannot miss out on one of the best books I’ve read this year.