The Mockingbird Next Door; Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills

mockingbirdIf you haven’t read Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-prizewinning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, read it before reading this biography.  It’s one of the most-beloved 20th-century novels and one that everyone should read!

In 2001, Marja Mills, a Chicago Tribune reporter, had an assignment to do research for an article that would fit in with To Kill a Mockingbird’s selection for the “One Book, One Chicago” program (similar to Greensboro’s “One City, One Book”).  The editor told her, “Monroeville, Alabama…It’s Harper Lee’s hometown.  We know she doesn’t give interviews. But I think it’s worth going there anyway.”

This book tells how Marja Mills did get an interview with Harper Lee.  That was just the beginning of a warm relationship.  Harper Lee and her sister Alice eventually encouraged Marja to rent the house next to the one they lived, and she became one of their close friends.  From eating in informal restaurants and washing clothes in the laundromat to fishing trips, she accompanied Harper Lee on many an excursion, and they spent hours in conversation.  Marja also spent a great deal of time with Alice, who continued to practice law into her 90’s, and with the sisters’ friends.  If the idea of spending time with Harper Lee in Monroeville has any appeal to you, this is as close as you’re likely to get!

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)


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