Harper Lee passed away in her sleep on February 19, 2016. She was 89. In a statement, Lee’s family said, “The family of Nelle Harper Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, announced today, with great sadness, that Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days, as she had requested.”
Lee never married and had no children.
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Harper Lee
This quote by To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee has found new meaning. After 55 years, Harper Lee fans and book lovers won’t have to hold their breath any longer waiting for Lee’s next book. Lee’s only published work, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a Pulitzer prize winning classic (published in 1960) that is about to have company. Before the success of Mockingbird, Lee wrote a book called Go Set A Watchman. It is essentially a sequel to Mockingbird, although it was written earlier, which will finally be published and available on July 14.
“In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman,” the 88-year-old Lee said in a statement issued by her publisher HarperCollins. “It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, 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.”
The new book is set in Lee’s famed Maycomb, Alabama, during the mid-1950s, 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird and roughly contemporaneous with the time that Lee was writing the story. The civil rights movement was taking hold in her home state. The Supreme Court had ruled unanimously in 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 led to the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott.
“Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus,” the publisher’s announcement reads. “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 pre-order sales on Amazon and Barnes and Noble have already pushed the book into the top 10 and the publishers are expecting 2 million copies of the first printing to be made. It was also be available in e-book form.