On Tuesday evening, while I was making an amazing pot of beef stew (that is neither here nor there, just a shameless plug for my fabulous stew) I heard the distinct sound of the UPS truck’s breaks. It’s a different sound from a neighbor’s car or my husband’s truck—more hiss than squeak. I looked out the window, and saw the man in brown toting a small package. I just knew if was my copy of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. I was so excited that I met the man on the sidewalk so I could handle the coveted book as soon as possible. All my bibliophile friends had been talking about this book for the past three weeks:
Are you going to get it?
Did you pre-order the book?
I think we should read it for our book club.
In my excitement, I had a hard time ripping off the thick brown cardboard surrounding it, so I used my teeth to free the book. (Yes, all you moms out there, I know teeth are not tools—except sometimes they are). I looked at the cover, the dark teal color, the shadowed trees in the background, and the yellow color of the font. I felt the smooth texture of the book jacket, turned to see how many pages it was (278 pages), and then I put it on my kitchen counter.
Two days later it is still there. Why?
I ask myself the same question, and I think it has to do with all of the hype and the controversies surrounded the publication. So, I have put the book on hold because I do not know how to make sense of these emotions. For those of you who need a quick update about the controversies, here they are:
1. Go Set the Watchman was the original book Harper Lee submitted to her publishers and editor in the late 1950s. Her editor Tay Hohoff liked the voice of the young Scout in the flashback portions and encouraged Lee to rewrite the story from Scout’s point of view growing up in the 1930s Deep South. The result was a completely new book called To Kill a Mockingbird. So, Watchman and Mockingbird are two different books, with different settings. Watchman is not a sequel to Mockingbird, even though it seems like it is. In Watchman, Atticus Finch is a man in his 70s living in the Civil Rights era, and who is seemingly a bigot, very different from the mild-mannered attorney who defended Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Early readers have found this disappointing, almost as if the Atticus in Mockingbird was misrepresented.