Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
While I normally review my books in the order I read them, given how topical it is, I figured I'd bump it up. So, today... I review Harper Lee's second (or first) book (whoa, never thought I'd be writing that sentence).
I have a little something to tell you. I know it's going to come as a shock. But...
Santa Claus isn't real
I'll give you a few moments to digest that.
Okay, now that you know the truth... this is exactly how I feel about Atticus Finch's character change from To Kill a Mockingbird to Go Set a Watchman. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the Atticus I knew from Scout's childhood. People have named their children after that man, people have modeled their parenting on him. His fighting on behalf of the victimized in TKAM brings tears to my eyes simply thinking about it too hard.
But like everyone, he is flawed. And while we wish Harper Lee had given this beloved character more palatable flaws... like picking up a crack pipe every now and again... she did not. We learned right alongside Jean Louise that a man we had placed on a pedestal, a man we had seen as a savior was, in fact, not the man we thought he was.
And I think our society needed that reminder. Especially now. Something has always felt a bit "off" to me about the narrative of black society and their struggles where the white man rode up on his trusty steed and saved the day. As GSAW was written before TKAM, Jean Louise's story is one of discovery and the rose-colored glasses through which we all tend to view our childhoods and our parents. However, the importance of this book being released at this point in our nation's history cannot be understated. We can't sit idly by and see candy-coated, fictional memories of our time in Maycomb County and think the hard part is over. We got complacent and our chickens are coming home to roost. We need to remember that for all the people working diligently to stomp out racism, there are people waiting in the wings, people we don't see coming, who are waiting to undo all the work that has been done. We need to be ever-vigilant and know that the work will likely NEVER be completed.
Does Atticus in GSAW ruin for me Atticus in TKAM? Nope. Granted, I'm good at compartmentalizing things like that. However, the Atticus we have been demanding for the past 60 years from Lee wasn't the one we wanted... he was the one we needed.
From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch "Scout" returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience.
Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.