No other book has sent me on more of an emotional rollercoaster than “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee. I know that may seem like an exaggeration, but it really isn’t. I can’t tell you how torn I am about this book. There’s been some high highs and some really low lows. And where am I after all of this? Still unsure if I will read this sequel to one of the greatest American novels ever.
1. So Elated I Cried At My Desk
Seriously. My friend Katie texted my the news and I started to well up. I collected myself because I was at school and if anything seems amiss I will get 137 questions about it. I was over the moon though. I was even more excited to learn that it would follow Scout as an adult. I could finally see if she ever married Dill.
2. Cautious Optimism Inspired By Teaching TKAM To My 8th Graders
I finished teaching “To Kill A Mockingbird” to my 8th graders. It’s a very rewarding book to teach, and it was while we were reading it that the news broke of the sequel. I was optimistic to read it and some of the 8th graders even expressed interest in picking it up. However, we did talk a lot about how Harper Lee doesn’t want anyone to write a critical introduction and how she declines interviews, which led me to the the third emotion…
3. A Weirdly Appreciative Nostalgia
You know, it’s kind of great that this beloved novel was the only thing Harper Lee ever wrote. She’s been living off it all this time! And the fact that she doesn’t want criticism means that you have to just take the book as it is and nothing more. It was kind of great that this book just stood by itself. In a way, I felt a certain ownership to Scout, Atticus, Jem, and Boo and I was happy just knowing them within the context of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Do I really NEED a sequel? Well, no.
4. Pure Worry
Reports start to surface that Harper Lee has both failing eyesight and failing hearing. She’s almost 90. I remembered a story from a while back about some crazy lawsuit enacted by the lawyers who run her estate. It seemed really fishy to me that now this book is coming out. I mean, I always figured we’d get more from her after her death a la J.D. Salinger, but now? It seems to me like there are some sketchy characters behind the scenes and they are taking advantage of a poor old woman. Not okay! I hope and pray it isn’t true, but all signs point to skullduggery.
5. Looking Forward
“Stop worrying!” I tell myself. “It’s just a book!” After I repeat this mantra for a while I start to look forward to the book’s release, but not in a counting-down-the-hours-until-Deathly-Hallows kind of way. Harper Lee can tell a good story and I am interested to see where it goes.
WHAT?! ATTICUS IS RACSIST?! WHY HARPER? WHY?! I AM NOT GIVING YOUR POSSIBLY CORRUPTED ESTATE ANY OF MY MONEY.
I’ve now arrived at one of my least favorite emotions—apathy. Some great essays have come out explaining why it’s good that Atticus has a dark side. It fits with our modern times for him to be flawed. Others say it’s worrying. Others say that to them, “To Kill A Mockingbird” will stand on it’s own and nothing will change that. There’s a lot out there on it, and I just can’t find it within myself to care anymore. I may or may not read it. Part of me wants to, and another part knows I can live without. It goes back to the question I asked earlier, “Do I NEED a sequel?”
I’ll be interested to see how “Go Set A Watchman” sits with the literary community and if my students bring it up this winter when we read it. I think eventually I’ll get around to it, but I’m not chomping at the bit. Frankly, there are some other things out there that I’d rather read right now. That seems blasphemous, but it’s true. It also seems extreme to say I’ll never read it. Yet, at the same time, it doesn’t feel right buying the book.
See my inner struggle, readers? What about any of you? Are you excited for “Go Set A Watchman”?