(Written from the perspective of Minny.) Johnny Foote calls Minny the day after the Benefit and asks her to check in on his wife Celia (he is away on a planned trip to a hunting camp). Celia just lies in bed for three full days, refusing to move or touch any food. She tells Minny that she should have stayed where she belonged, and Johnny should have married properly; she doesn't understand why Hilly was so furious at the pie, and why she assumed Celia was the one who signed her up for it. Celia decides that she's going to leave Johnny and move back to Sugar Ditch.
Minny, who feels very guilty that Celia is so worried about the pie, decides to tell Celia her deepest secret. She explains that after Hilly spread rumors about her being a thief, Minny baked some of her own feces into a chocolate custard pie and fed Hilly two slices of it before telling her what was in it. Hilly was furious, but terrified to be known in Jackson as the woman who ate a black woman's feces. Minny explains to Celia that Hilly must have thought she knew about the story, and that's why she was so vicious to her. Minny encourages Celia not to leave her husband, because then Hilly will have beaten them both.
The next day, Celia leaves her bed and eats some food. Despite the cold and the rain, she goes outside and chops down the mimosa tree. Hilly notices a check that Celia has written to reimburse Hilly for ripping her dress - the check is made out to "Two-Slice Hilly."
(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) Skeeter calls Elaine Stein to check in about the manuscript, which she plans to send it in January. Elaine tells her that this is not acceptable; Skeeter is a completely unknown writer and if she is to have any chance at all of getting her book noticed, she needs to have it in before December 21st. Elaine also tells Skeeter that she needs to interview her own childhood maid Constantine for the book. Skeeter is shocked to realize she will only have nineteen days to finish writing two more interviews, but she is determined to see this project through.
Skeeter has been completely outcast from the League. Hilly was furious about the toilets on her law and asked Skeeter how long she had been planning to humiliate her like this. When Skeeter could not find a satisfactory answer, Hilly stopped speaking to her; it has been well over four months since the two women last spoke. Skeeter tried to remain friends with Elizabeth Leefolt, but Elizabeth also stopped speaking to her. This social humiliation is compounded when Hilly publicly replaces her as the editor of the League newsletter.
One night, Skeeter comes home from a long drive to find Stuart Whitworth on her porch. He explains that he drove to San Francisco to confront Patricia, and that he's resolved any lingering feelings that he has for her. He wants to start things with Skeeter again, but Skeeter feels as though she has already given him too many chances.
She pours herself into typing up the last few stories, realizing she has even less time than she originally thought because of the time it will take to mail the material to New York City. At Aibileen's suggestion, she decides to call the book Help. Aibileen also agrees to tell her what happened to Constantine.
Stuart Whitworth continues to stop by her house, often exchanging only a few words with Skeeter. One day he stops by as her mother is on the porch, shivering under blankets despite the warm air. Skeeter expects her mother to rebuke her for being so unfriendly to a potential husband, but her mother tells her that Stuart is not worthy of her.
Aibileen writes Skeeter a letter telling her what happened to Constantine. Skeeter learns that Constantine's daughter Lulabelle was extremely light-skinned, which made it impossible for her to live in segregated Mississippi: she looked white but she was actually black, and was treated harshly by both communities. To make matters worse, Constantine got pregnant out of wedlock. Constantine gave her up to an orphanage in Chicago because she needed to keep working for Skeeter's family. Lulabelle got back in contact with Constantine a couple years ago, and came to visit her in Mississippi. Lulabelle came to a society function that Skeeter's mother was hosting, and she helped herself to all the treats meant for the white guests. When Skeeter's mother confronted her about this unacceptable behavior, Lulabelle mocked her and then spat in her face in front of all the guests. Skeeter's mother told Constantine that Lulabelle could never show her face in Mississippi again. Lulabelle said that Skeeter's mother couldn't keep them apart, not after Constantine had been forced to give her up after her father's death. Skeeter's mother knew this was a lie and told Lulabelle so, saying that her father had run off the day she was born and that Constantine didn't want her because she was so light-skinned.
Constantine moved up to Chicago with her daughter and died three weeks later. Skeeter confronts her mother about this, who asserts that she could not tolerate this kind of rudeness, but she did not know that Constantine would leave and pass away. Skeeter is heart-broken and angry, but she cannot bring herself to be too harsh on her frail mother.
Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny put the last touches on their manuscript. They are very concerned that people in Jackson will figure out whom the book is about, and the identities of the black maids who told their stories. Minny decides that they could use some "insurance," and she suggests putting the Terrible Awful in the book, because then Hilly (who would be most likely to discover the truth) would make sure that no one else figured out whom the book was about. It is also risky, because this move could ensure that Hilly knows exactly whom the book is by and about, possibly bringing down her wrath on the women who wrote it. Ultimately, the three women decide that Hilly's shame at the Terrible Awful is greater than her desire for revenge, and they add it to the book. Skeeter sends out the final version only a few days before the deadline, unsure if it will reach its destination on time.
(Written from the perspective of Skeeter.) The family doctor reveals to Skeeter that her mother has stomach cancer, and has only a few weeks to live. Skeeter is devastated, but she does her best to make her mother comfortable at home. Despite her pain and weakness, Skeeter's mother remains determined, writing lists of unflattering clothes that Skeeter should not wear and making years' worth of future hair appointments for her daughter.
Stuart continues to visit Skeeter despite her coldness toward him. One night he presents her with a ring and asks her to marry him. Skeeter is stunned; she does love Stuart, and she also wants to give her mother the happiness of seeing her daughter engaged. But she decides that if they are going to be married, he has to know about the book she has written with the maids. After she tells him this, Stuart takes back the ring and leaves.
Elaine Stein tells Skeeter that they have decided to publish her book. The advance will only be a few hundred dollars and the first printing will be small, but Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny are delighted at the news. Their joy is dampened, however, by the fear that the white women of Jackson might recognize themselves and take their revenge on the maids.
At last, the "Terrible Awful," the reason for the continuing hatred between Minny and Hilly, is revealed. The racist Hilly has eaten two pieces of a pastry containing a black woman's feces. Hilly has built a great deal of her public reputation on the idea that black people are so dirty that they require separate bathrooms, so this incident would tarnish her reputation beyond all repair. The timing of this story is significant: Minny tells this story to Celia to assuage her humiliation at the events of the Benefit and to prevent her from leaving her husband, signifying how close the two women have become.
Celia's act of chopping down the mimosa tree in chapter 26 marks a major turning point for her. She hates this tree and has often wished it was removed, but leaves it up for the sake of appearances. By chopping it down, Celia symbolically chooses her own integrity and interests over pleasing other people. She won't pretend to like the mimosa tree anymore, and she also won't pretend to like Celia and her friends.
The sad incident between Constantine's daughter Lulabelle and the Phelan family show how racism can still destroy a close relationship built over decades. By pretending to be white, helping herself to food, speaking rudely, and spitting in Skeeter's mother's face, Lulabelle offered an insult that could not be ignored. Rather than just firing Constantine, however, Skeeter's mother did something even crueler: she exposed the gentle lie that Constantine had told her daughter about why she had given her up. This act also alienated Constantine from the Phelan family, and she did not have time to resolve this argument because of her untimely death.
Despite these cruel acts toward Constantine and her daughter, Skeeter's mother grows more sympathetic. A doctor reveals to Skeeter that she is terribly sick with stomach cancer, which explains her insisting that her daughter settle down and marry. Skeeter's mother also supports her daughter during Stuart's unwelcome return; she tells her daughter not to cheapen herself by taking him back. Despite her flaws, Skeeter's mother wants a happy life for her daughter.
Skeeter finds herself completely socially outcast. Hilly and Elizabeth refuse to speak to her, and Hilly kicks her out of the League. Her only relationship in the white community is with Stuart, who is trying to win her back. When Stuart asks her to marry him, Skeeter exhibits her tendency for brutal honesty by telling him about her work with the maids, knowing that she cannot start a life with him if she hides this crucial piece of information. He cannot handle this revelation, and he leaves with the ring.