Whoa: Harper Lee, 88, to Publish Her Second Novel in July
It takes a lot for a literary story to qualify as “shocking” to the general public, but this one qualifies: Harper Lee, the 88-year-old author of the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird, will publish her second novel this July.
The book, called To Set a Watchman, is essentially a sequel to Mockingbird, and was completed by Lee in the mid-1950s—before she ever wrote her seminal work.
“It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman,” said Lee, in a statement released by Harper, her publisher, “and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) from the point of view of the young Scout.
“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”
Amazingly, the book was found by Carter in a “secure location,” attached to an original copy of Mockingbird. To Set a Watchman takes place in Maycomb, AL in the ‘50s, at the height of the civil rights movement and about 20 years after Mockingbird. The story, per the publisher’s statement, revisits the characters from that earlier work:
“Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”
The book will be released on July 14 with no revisions from the original manuscript, and Harper plans to print 2 million copies for the first run. Lee lives in Monroeville, AL, and is unlikely to do any publicity for the book. In this case, to put it mildly, she won’t need to.