To Kill A Mockingbird sequel to be released July 2015

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n an August 31, 2001, file image at the Stage Coach Cafe in Stockton, Ala., the author Harper Lee, who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird.” A recently-discovered sequel, “Go Set a Watchman,” is due to be published in July 2015. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Emily Berthiaume , Teen Intrest Editor

Fifty-five years ago, Harper Lee published her hugely successful first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, inspire an Oscar-award winning movie, sell 40 million copies, and become an American classic. Now, a follow-up book written by the now 88-year-old author entitled Go Set a Watchman will be released in July.

Go Set a Watchman, which is 304 pages and will be released July 14, is set 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird and features an adult Scout living in New York City returning to Maycomb to visit Atticus, her father. According to a statement released by the publisher, Go Set a Watchman, whose title is derived from a Bible verse, involves Scout being “forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

Although its events make it a sequel to Mockingbird, the second novel was actually written before Mockingbird, in the mid-1950s. In a statement released by her publisher, Lee said her editor was “taken” by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood when he first read Watchman, and persuaded her to write a new novel from the point of view of young Scout.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told,” Lee said.

It was revealed February 5 that To Kill a Mockingbird was originally intended to be the first of a three-book series that would have included Watchman, according to Andrew Nurnberg, Lee’s foreign-rights agent. The original plan was to release Mockingbird first, then a connecting novel, which apparently never was written, and then Watchman.

The success of Mockingbird, Lee’s first effort, was overwhelming. The novel’s story of young Scout, her brother Jem, father Atticus and mysterious neighbor Boo dealing with a highly controversial, racially driven trial in the 1930s South touched the heart of millions and is now frequently read in classrooms across America.

Harper Lee did not write another fiction piece after Mockingbird, despite extreme demand from fans and critics alike. In 1964, in her last major piece of publicity, Lee said she did not expect the book to sell in the first place and that the reaction to her book was “just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected…like being hit over the head and knocked cold.”

Tonja Carter, Lee’s attorney, discovered the manuscript of Watchman attached to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird three months ago. She then negotiated a deal with HarperCollins to publish.

“I hadn’t realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it,” said Lee in the statement. “After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

Harper Lee is now deaf and almost completely blind and lives in an assisted-living facility in Monroeville, the small Alabama town where she grew up that inspired Maycomb. There has been some controversy over whether or not Lee is capable of making legal financial decisions because of her health. She has no children and her sister, Alice, who was deaf as well and died last November at the age of 103, protected her financial interests. Tonja Carter was given power of attorney over Lee. However, Jonathon Burnham, the senior vice-president of HarperCollins, denied these allegations.

“Harper Lee was delighted to learn of the discovery of the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman, and – as her statement in the press release attests – is very happy to see this novel published at long last. To suggest otherwise is completely unacceptable,” Burnham said.

Nurnberg also dismissed claims of manipulation, releasing a new quote from Lee saying she is “alive and kicking and happy as hell” at the reactions to the announcement of the new novel.

Nurnberg said Lee is “very lively, very funny. She is in good form for a woman of 88 who has macular degeneration. This isn’t somebody with dementia who is being led up the garden path.”

Nurnberg described Carter was “the most honest advocate” for the novel, and said if Nelle (as Lee is known) didn’t want it published, Carter wouldn’t have worked out a publishing deal.

Given that this novel is Lee’s first literary event in over 50 years, it caused quite a stir in the literary community.

“This is a remarkable literary event,” Burnham said in a statement. “The existence of Go Set a Watchman was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift to the many readers and fans of To Kill a Mockingbird. Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee’s classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter’s relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”