It was a tale of racism and violence in the Jim Crow South, told in the gentlest of voices through the eyes of a child. Coming when it did, just as the civil rights movement was gaining real steam, it's timing was perfect, too, and perfect for helping change American attitudes toward "the race question."
For 20 years, we hoped Harper Lee would write another book, then we gave up. In some ways, writers understand. You can't capture lightning in a bottle twice. When you've written something that perfect, something that readers (and moviegoers) love beyond measure, it's unlikely that anything you do from then on will measure up.
So we quit hoping and, every few years, just reread the masterpiece or watched Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Robert Duvall (in his screen debut).
But now there is to be another--Go Set A Watchman, a sequel that was really a prequel, the novel she wrote first and set aside when someone suggested she should rewrite the story from the viewpoint of Scout as a girl. If what the media says is true, Harper Lee herself thought the manuscript was lost.
Praise be, it wasn't. We'll get another chance to meet a grown-up Miss Jean Louise and presumably an older Atticus.
Will it be as good? Who knows. As I write this, there's the inevitable controversy: at 88, is Miss Lee being manipulated? Will the book be any good or just a first-time novelist's first attempt? Are the publishers doing it just for the money (imagine that!)?
But I promise you I'll be ordering my advance copy at the earliest possible moment. At the very least, it will fill be a fascinating look into Harper Lee's gifts before Mockingbird. I'm hoping it'll be the second book in my life (To Kill a Mockingbird being the other) that I simply must start over again the moment I finish the last page.