The Mockingbird Next DoorJuly 11, 2015
by Marja Mills
With all the controversy and criticism swirling around “Go Set a Watchman,” I wanted to get a sense of Harper Lee the person, if that were possible. The famously reclusive author has shunned public life—and public digging into her life—since after she published “To Kill A Mockingbird.” She has turned away cadres of reporters and has refused to write her memoirs. Marja Mills, who somehow, for some reason, was allowed into the world of Harper and her sister Alice in order to “set the record straight,” offers little of worth in this book.
We certainly get a sense of the sweet, feisty, beloved author who has a penchant for McDonald’s and “mounds of coffee,” but little else. Afternoons at a fishing hole, dinners with friends, and road trips to towns whose names are more interesting than themselves (Itchy Ankle, for one) does not an interesting biography make. It were as if Lee sidestepped just about every tough question posed, if it was posed at all. And Mills seems to have a sixth sense as to what to hold back in order not to offend the authors. In so doing, she offends the reader, who wants to understand this rare and elusive bird.