Aging reclusive novelist Harper Lee is set to release her second novel in July. Her first book is the beloved classic To Kill A Mockingbird, which was released to instant acclaim in 1960, and has remained a bestseller ever since. Lee, 88, resides in an assisted living facility in Alabama hasn’t done a press interview since 1964 and has always maintained that she said what she wanted to say with To Kill A Mockingbird.
I fell in love with To Kill A Mockingbird when it was required reading in my 10th grade English class at Roy High. It was the first time an assigned book found its way into my heart. That novel blew my mind and opened my soul; it remains one of my all time favorites. Look at the photo where I’m holding my copy. Looks like I’ve read it just a few times.
The announcement of a second novel from this gifted writer and the way it came about is somewhat worthy of a novel itself. According to press releases from Lee’s publisher, her second novel Go Set A Watchman was actually written before To Kill A Mockingbird, but was shelved when her editor encouraged her to examine some of the subject matter through the eyes of a younger character. And thus, to Kill A Mockingbird was born. Thank god, too, because what else would your sophomore English teacher make you read?
According to the publisher, Harper Lee’s attorney was checking up on the condition of the original manuscript of Mockingbird (which is probably worth a few bucks and is in a secure location) when she discovered the unknown manuscript attached to the papers. Harper Lee thought Go Set A Watchman had been lost, but was reportedly happy that it was unearthed. She shared it with friends who encouraged her to publish it. And it is a sequel of To Kill A Mockingbird that features Scout Finch returning to Maycomb, Alabama as an adult to visit with her father, Atticus. This is exactly what I want!
As soon as the announcement was made earlier this week, there were speculative reports that the aging author had been duped by agents, lawyers, and publishers looking for a fast buck. Some speculated that she is near senility and signed any legal document that anybody put in front of her. Well, today there are reports firing back at these allegations. According to the BBC, Lee responded to these claims by saying “I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to Watchman.” Her international rights agent claims that “she is in great spirits and increasingly excited at the prospect of this novel finally seeing the light of day.”
She’s alive and kicking and “happy as hell” over the new book. That’s the Harper Lee that we all know and love, who had the presence of mind to take on such strong issues as depicted in Mockingbird. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited as hell over it as well!
The only problem is how awkward it’s going to be when I show up in Mr. Hein’s sophomore English class at Roy High School with a copy of Go Set A Watchman this fall. It seems like the proper venue for me to read a Harper Lee book for the first time!
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