Wednesday, May 28, 2014
The Mockingbird Next Door
For someone who is "one of those people" who love and reread To Kill a Mockingbird at least once a year, this book cleared up so very many misconceptions about Nelle Harper Lee. I always thought being a recluse meant living as a hermit, having groceries brought to the back door, paying no attention to life outside the curtains. But this book was an eye opener! Marja Mills, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, somehow managed by just being nice, to befriend the Lee sisters, move in next door and share their life. She was brought into their lives as a friend, someone who could be trusted, and thus given permission to share with the world the life Nelle Harper chose to live after the phenomenal continued success of her book To Kill a Mockingbird.
Miss Mills showed us that Nelle lives, with the protection of the citizens of Monroeville, a public life. She has coffee at McDonalds, goes to the laundromat to do her laundry, eats in restaurants, has friends, feeds ducks, goes fishing and spent half of her time in New York, where she truly felt anonymous.
I loved this book. I saw Ms. Lee and sat in her living room, pushing aside the books and magazines from the chairs, and had her over for morning coffee and discovered why, oh WHY did she not write another book? Why she ran away from TKAM. Why she just didn't understand how this book, the characters drawn from her own life - Truman Capote as Dill, her father as Atticus, her sister Alice as Jem, herself as Scout would take over high school reading lists, and law schools.
Harper Lee has become one of our icons whether she wanted to or not. And she didn't. But regardless, I am so very grateful for Miss Mills and her friendship with the Lee sisters, for gaining the trust of the Lee sisters and for this book that answered so many questions.