The Mockingbird Next Door

The Mockingbird Next Door
The Mockingbird Next Door
by Marja Mills
July 11, 2015

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.


  1. Harper Lee probably did not want Go Set a Watchman published. After the death of Harper’s sister, something happened, and now the book is out. Harper Lee’s mind was in decline; it looks like a definite possibility that she was taken advantage of by representative of the book publishing business. Terribly sad, if true. Her friend stayed loyal when she published this memoir. Why do we want to know the many personal details of an author’s life? I find it ironic when prolific readers who make a point of knowing the juicy bits of an author’s life criticize people who read about the juicy bits of Hollywood celebrities.

    All this said, I do think the ghostwriters behind this memoir need to go back to school. Not the best writing. A good writer should be able to make writing about a doorknob an interesting read.

    1. Carol, I wholeheartedly agree that it’s not the best writing, but there were no ghost writers. This memoir was written solely by Marja Mills, but it barely focuses on the author. It seems like an excuse to try to wriggle into Lee’s life.

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