When Harper Lee’s second book was published last year, I went back and forth on whether or not to read it. Of course I wanted to read it, but I wasn’t convinced I should – it seemed so strange that this great author who said she wouldn’t write again would want a manuscript be published.
Lee is my favorite author. She has been since I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in the sixth grade. I wanted to be Scout. I took Atticus’ words to heart. The necklace I wear almost everyday is two gold feathers, one engraved with “Scout” and the other with “Boo”.
I eventually did read Lee’s new book, To Set a Watchman. I bought it. In hardback. And, contrary to popular opinion, I liked it.
Most critics were disappointed. Atticus isn’t the hero of this one! In fact (spoiler alert), he’s proven to be racist. But Atticus is still Atticus, our Atticus. TKAM’s Atticus is a father through the eyes of an eight year old. Of course he’s deemed perfect and brave and invincible. GSAW’s Atticus is viewed through the eyes of twenty six year old Scout as a whole human, flaws and all.
The new manuscript was a gift, to me at least. People are more complex than we imagine at age eight. As a child, Scout and Atticus taught me to be a good person, a better person; to treat others fairly; to not judge; to believe in justice and truth. As an adult, they showed me I can love people who I don’t agree with and accept places I’ve come from even if I’ve changed.
There’s a time for both of Lee’s books. I was fortunate to read them both exactly when I needed them.
Thank you Harper.
“Why doesn’t their flesh creep? How can they devoutly hear everything they believe in church and then say the things they do and listen to the things they hear without throwing up? I thought I was a Christian but I’m not. I’m something else and I don’t know what.”