It’s not everyday that book news goes viral, or becomes worthy enough for the Associated Press to send out a breaking news alert.
But it happened today with the announcement that Pulitzer-prize winning author Harper Lee, who wrote the classic To Kill a Mockingbird is releasing a new novel — her first since Mockingbird was published 55 years ago.
According to The Guardian, her new release, Go Set a Watchman, will tell the story of a grown-up Scout, the main character from Mockingbird. Apparently Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman before Mockingbird, but never released it. In fact, she didn’t even think the manuscript still existed after all these years, but her lawyer Tonja Carter allegedly found the manuscript three months ago. Plans to publish it were kept under wraps until today.
So why should we care? First of all, Harper Lee has kept a largely private life since the release and success of To Kill a Mockingbird, which won her the Pulitzer Prize. She has popped up in the news several times in recent years, but that was mostly for lawsuits regarding copyright issues. So the fact that she’s come out of hiding for so long and releasing a new novel to boot is huge.
Not to mention it’s somewhat of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. How often do we wonder what’s happened to our favorite characters after we’ve finished reading a novel? (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve hoped for Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska to get it on after I finished reading The Age of Innocence.) Sequels and the continuation of a story is a luxury, of which we often take advantage (hello, Hunger Games and Harry Potter).
It’s also worth noting that Harper Lee is 88, mostly deaf and mostly blind. Though she wrote the novel when she was younger, it is still quite a achievement to go through the process of publishing a book at that age and that state of health.
To Kill a Mockingbird was such a powerful book. It combines humor and warmth while also dealing with serious topics like race and rape — issues that 55 years later are still prevalent in our society. We can only hope that Lee’s latest endeavor will shed light on the important issues of a society that’s always striving for better future.