At some point during middle or high school English class, your teacher probably assigned To Kill a Mockingbird for you to read. The 1960 novel about racial prejudice in the Deep South is one of the most enduring classics of American literature. It was also the first and only book the author ever wrote — until the sequel, written before Mockingbird but set 20 years later, was discovered. Harper Lee's new book, Go Set a Watchman, is controversial, but not because of its content.
Go Set a Watchman will be released by HarperCollins Publishers on July 14. But not everyone believes it should be made public. Lee is now 89. She is deaf and nearly blind, and has lived in a nursing home since she had a stroke eight years ago. Her lawyer, Tonja Carter, is the one who found the Watchman manuscript three years ago. It is a complete draft, but it has not been edited and, according to Bloomberg Business, Lee has not reread it. Carter says Lee has consented to her new book's publication, but others have wondered about Lee's mental state and if she's able to fully understand what's happening with Watchman.
According to Bloomberg Business, a friend of Lee's, Mary Tucker, said "I'm concerned. I really don't know if [the publication of Watchman] is her wish at all." The State of Alabama looked into the possibility of elder abuse, fearing that Lee might be being taken advantage of, but it closed its investigation in April. In February, Carter released a statement from Lee, which further indicated the author's willingness to share her book: "I'm alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to Watchman."
And yet, not everyone trusts that Carter has Lee's best interests at heart. In a letter several years ago, Lee's sister, Alice, wrote, "Poor Nelle Harper can't see and can't hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence." A board member of the Monroe County Heritage Museum (which is located in Lee's hometown, Monroeville, Ala.), Tim McKenzie, told Bloomberg, "Tonja says she's just doing what Miss Lee asks of her, but we know she runs the show." But another close friend of Lee's, Joy Williams Brown, believes Lee knows exactly what's going on with her estate: "She very much has her wits about her," Brown told Bloomberg. "Tonja is not manipulating her."
Amid all these conflicting stories, there's a boatload of money to be made off of Go Set a Watchman. Two million copies have already been preordered, making it the highest-selling book in HarperCollins history, on par with a Harry Potter release.
Many people have questioned why, if Lee did want her book released, she wouldn't have published it before now. The intensely private author has taken pains to avoid the public eye and the New York Times reported that she was adamant she'd never release another book. But whatever Lee's intentions, the printing is definitely going forward. Now, the question remains: is it right to read it?