Mark your calendars, book lovers: a quasi-sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird is coming summer 2015 and we hope you’re as excited about it as we are.
Author Harper Lee, 88, revealed on Tuesday that she will release a companion novel to Mockingbird on July 15th. The 304-page book, Go Set a Watchman, takes place 20 years later and features a fully-grown Scout returning to the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father, Atticus Finch.
To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by young and spirited Jean Louise “Scout” Finch as she navigates the racially charged world of the American South in the 1930’s. Arguably one of the most influential American novels of the 20th century, it has been translated into 40 languages and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize upon its original publication in 1960.
It was Lee’s first published work. Despite requests and encouragement (and plain old begging) from the literary community and her millions of fans, the author has not published a book since.
I was thirteen years old when I first picked up a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, the freshest of freshmen with a mouth full of braces and just about all of the social awkwardness that could possibly fit inside one human being. It was one of the only books on the required reading list that year that I didn’t dread making time for.
Despite requests, encouragement (and plain old begging) from the literary community and her millions of fans, the author has not published a book since.
I related to Scout on multiple levels; I hadn’t grown into myself yet and struggled to understand what it meant to be a girl in a boy’s world. I couldn’t ever pay attention in school and hated reading. Scout herself said, “Until I feared I would lose it, I did not love to read. One does not love breathing.”
More importantly, I was captivated by Scout’s relationship with her father, Atticus, and how much he reminded me of my own dad. My dad, much like Atticus Finch, was a quiet but compassionate man who accepted his daughter exactly as she was. Like Atticus, “he did not do the things our schoolmates’ fathers did: he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish, or drink or smoke. He sat in the living room and read.”
The literary world needs more characters like Atticus Finch and the real world needs more people like my dad. We have more than enough Edward Cullens and Christian Greys, enough brooding stares and testosterone-fueled angst to last a lifetime. Atticus taught me to look at the world differently: He showed me how to treat others not just with kindness but also with humanity. He was unfaltering in the face of violence; he was ostracized when he chose to do what was right instead of what was expected of him.
I am excited to meet Atticus again in Lee’s new novel and see what sage advice he has to offer his grown-up daughter.
Atticus taught me to look at the world differently. He showed me how to treat others not just with kindness but also with humanity.
Go Set a Watchman will serve as a sequel of sorts to Mockingbird, though it was actually written first. Lee discarded the manuscript after she was encouraged to move the story in a different direction. “My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of young Scout,” said Lee in a statement released by her publisher. “I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told.”
Though the announcement has largely been met with huge excitement, a few are skeptical of Lee’s personal involvement in the project and aren’t certain she approved the book’s release with sound mind. After suffering a stroke in 2007, the author has been living in an assisted living community in Alabama and is reportedly mostly deaf and blind. Lee’s older sister Alice, a lawyer and a fierce protector of Lee’s work and brand, passed away late last year.
According to the statement, Lee believed the manuscript for Watchman to be lost or destroyed until a friend discovered it in her archives in fall 2014. The book will be published exactly as it was written (in the mid-1950’s) with no revisions.
Some might worry that Lee’s unaltered new book won’t live up to To Kill a Mockingbird, which underwent extensive editing before publication. But if Watchman possesses even a shred of Lee’s powerful and compassionate literary voice, a voice that bravely told the world to choose courage and empathy over hatred and intolerance, we will all be better people for reading it.