To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is one of the best-loved novels of the 20th century. But for the last 50 years, the novel's celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation - and a great friendship.
In 2004, with the Lees' blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next 18 months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees' inner circle of friends.
Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story - and the South - right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.
The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills's friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle.
Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees' life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.
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Okay, But Misleading Title
A new title. No real insights into Harper Lee; more about her sister and day-to-day life in a small Southern town. Not crazy about the reader.
The most interesting part was a few glimpses into Harper Lee's life, e.g. she doesn't have laundry facilities and home and uses a laundromat. Also, depiction of life among the seniors in flyover country. The least interesting? The depiction of life among the seniors in flyover country - eventually it got pretty repetitive and, at times, tedious.Harper Lee's older sister "Miss Alice," an attorney who practiced through her 90s and beyond, was much more interesting and forthcoming.
Not a thing - except maybe why a woman in her 40s on medical disability leave for Lupus would even consider adopting a baby. A very brief passage in the book.
I have very mixed feelings about this book, although, despite the controversy, I have no doubt that Harper Lee and her sister did indeed know that she was writing it. In fact, that was part of the problem - no real insight or revelations out of respect for the subject(s). It was kind of interesting in terms of a glimpse of the down-to-earth life of Harper Lee and some of her background. But it would have made a better magazine feature than book. I also had some issues with the reader. Perhaps her Southern accents and "character" voices were authentic, but they sounded like exaggerations and got a little annoying.
- Dixie "Well read X"
A Charming Book
- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."