I think the greatest sin of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is the feeling of doubt that it gave me.
Before Go Set a Watchman, I naively thought I knew Harper Lee. Many of us believed that. There was such a beautiful personal quality to To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout and Atticus were not fictional, they were real, and we assumed that real people hid behind their smiles and hugs. Harper was Scout and, of course, her father was the noble and great Atticus.
They were friends and I visited with them often, in both film and book. Before Go Set a Watchman, I would watch the movie once a year, crying in the same two places each time (when Scout is told to stand for her father as he is passing and when she sees Boo in the corner). And I have read the book more times than I care to mention. A part of me still dreams of the first time that I will read it to my kids.
There was a moment in the 2000s, that I shared the same literary agent as Harper Lee. And I would beg (beg!) the agent for news on Harper. I imagined, if I played my cards right, there could be a friendship there. It would begin with a call, that slight southern warmth in her voice. “I was told you wanted to speak with me?”
Awkward at first and then the talk would grow. I would laugh at her sarcastic wit. And I would do a little dance the first time I was able to get her to laugh.
Of course, that call never happened, and my agent at the time just allowed my daydreams to take place.
But, like I said, that all changed with Go Set a Watchman. Continue reading