The Friends of the Library Book Club will discuss The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills on December 11, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. Newcomers are welcome!
Harper Lee, author of the “national touchstone,” To Kill a Mockingbird, withdrew from the relentless vortex of fame and never published another book. Her silence, like that of J. D. Salinger, has been a compelling literary mystery. When To Kill a Mockingbird was chosen for One Book, One Chicago in 2001, Chicago Tribune reporter Mills traveled to Lee’s Alabama hometown, certain that she would never get anywhere near the author. Instead, Mills found herself living a literary fairy tale, as Alice, Harper’s older sister by 15 years, still working as an attorney in her nineties, ushered Mills into their book-filled home. Soon Mills, much to her astonishment, is watching football games, going fishing, and sharing meals with Alice, Nelle (Harper is her middle name), and their friends. When the Lees express their hope that Mills will record their reminiscences and “set the record straight,” she rents the house next door and devotes herself to listening to tales of the Lee family; Nelle’s relationship with their childhood neighbor, Truman Capote (“Truman was a psychopath, honey”); and the nearly overwhelming repercussions of Nelle’s novel. Mills’ struggles with lupus bring her even closer to the sisters. As she portrays the exceptional Lee women and their modest, slow-paced world with awed precision, Mills creates a uniquely intimate, ruminative, and gently illuminating biographical memoir. (Booklist review by Donna Seaman; Copyright © American Library Association.)