Harper Lee is publishing another book titled Go Set a Watchmen, which is amazing news to say the least. The fact that it is a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird is even more so. Being an aspiring author from Alabama, she is without a doubt one of my heroes.
But it does make me wonder if a sequel could live up to the original. Take the Hunger Games trilogy for example. I'm not sure if Suzanne Collins intended for the story to be a three-part series or if the first book was so popular she decided to make it one. I loved the first book but couldn't get through Mockingjay and bypassed Catching Fire all together. The second one almost made me not like the first one.
Another example would be the dystopian novella titled Wool. Hugh Howey's story about a bleak future where the air was so poisoned people had to live underground in silos was one of the best futuristic tales I've read since The Time Machine. But the story was complete. It was so popular, however, Howey decided to write a sequel, and another, and another, and another.
You can't really argue with the results. Each book was a hit and Simon and Schuster dished out millions just for the rights to publish them all into one book. And it was a huge success.
So maybe Lee's sequel will likewise only add to the storyline. The book will no doubt be a success no matter what simply because it was written by one of the most talented and mysterious authors in American history. To Kill a Mockingbird was required reading when I was in high school, and like millions of other people, I wanted more from her.
But her story behind the story is what has been the most puzzling. Here are her words.
In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called 'Go Set a Watchman.' It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout.
I've read about everything there is to read about how To Kill a Mockingbird came to be, and saw the documentary more times than I can count, and this is the first I've heard of this manuscript. I remember how she had worked on her manuscript, originally titled Atticus, for years. I remember how her friends in New York paid her bills for a year so she could fully dedicate her time to finishing it. (Why don't I have friends like that?) I remember all the rejections and how one woman, a new managing editor, took a chance. I remember how they worked on the manuscript for two more years to get it ready. I remember how the publishing company suggested changing the name to To Kill a Mockingbird and the rest was history.
Or was it? History is a funny thing, often written from the most victorious points of view and not always exactly what we think or read. This new book certainly throws a monkey wrench into this legacy.
It would be like 50 years from now fans learning that the original Star Wars manuscript was actually The Force Awakens about an older Luke Skywalker, Leia and Solo and the studio said, "Hey, why don't you write another story about when Luke was a teenager?"
That's another good example of a sequel that will most likely only take away from the original storyline. I am a huge fan and content with the memories of what transpired. Do I really want to see Hans and Leia going to their AARP meetings or see Luke use the Force to keep his dentures in place?
The thing is, Harper Lee could have cranked out numerous other books after her first and they all would have been bestsellers just because she wrote them. But she never did and as much as that angst us, we have admired her all the more for it. That's what makes this new release all the more perplexing.
I read some buzz on the internet already where people are questioning this back story. Maybe it's not 100% accurate. Maybe Harper Lee just wanted to write another book but liked the admiration she always received for not doing so. Maybe, maybe...
I guess the point is moot. It's still awesome news and millions of people are excited. I think the plan to start with two million copies will barely cover the preorders.
And from one Alabamian to another, let me just say, "God bless."