Westchester Authors On To Kill A Mockingbird Sequel

Harper Lee is to release a sequel to her classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, 55 years after it was first published—here’s what our local literary pros have to say.

If you remember To Kill a Mockingbird from your high school English class then you already know about Atticus and Scout Finch, Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson. The novel has been used in countless high school English classes and for good reason: it highlights issues such as racism and socioeconomic disparities against the backdrop of the 1950s American south.

What you might not know is that the novel Harper Lee first brought to her publisher was titled Go Set a Watchman, which focused on Scout Finch as an adult. The publisher was so taken by the occasional flashbacks to Scout’s childhood that she challenged the Lee to rewrite the novel from the child’s perspective. To Kill a Mockingbird was the result.

Go Set a Watchman was largely forgotten until recently when lawyer Tonja Carter rediscovered it.

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Lee’s decision to publish it isn’t without controversy—Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri is “dreading” the release. Petri wrote, “I do not read ‘Lord of the Flies 2: The Quickening.’ What the boys do with themselves when they get off the island does not concern me. That was the story, right there. What else could there be?”

However, Mount-Pleasant-based author Marilyn Johnson, known for This Book is Overdue! and Lives in Ruin, called the release “a wonderful reminder of the treasures that can be found in archives and attics and safe deposit boxes.”

Johnson said that she—and everyone she has talked to—is gleefully looking forward to reading about grown-up Scout and aging Atticus. “We would all buy it today if it were available,” she said, “In some sense, that means it’s already a success.”

Andrew Gross, Purchase resident and New York Times bestselling author, echoed the concerns that many others have for 88-year-old Lee. Although he is also excited for the release, he said, “with her guardian sister dead for just three months and Harper Lee reportedly in ill-health, I am hoping this is all done with her permission.”

He predicts that the sequel will not be as iconic as its predecessor—admittedly a hard act to follow—but recognizes it as a “huge publishing event” regardless.

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“As a Harper Collins author, I am hoping they still have enough paper in stock to print [my books],” Gross joked.

“I hope people don’t make it a horse race between [Go Set a Watchman] and To Kill a Mockingbird,” said Ronnie Levine, Tarrytown author and artist who has been published in Westchester Magazine. Levine said that most of her excitement about the sequel comes from the fact that it provides a different perspective of the original’s setting, and compared it to Lawrence Durrell’s tetralogy of novels, The Alexandria Quartet.

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