The Mockingbird Next Door
Columbia Reads: Marja Mills shares her memoir The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee.
A New York Times, USA Today, and National Indie bestseller, The Mockingbird Next Door is one journalist’s memoir of her friendship with Harper Lee and her sister Alice, drawing on the extraordinary access they gave her to share their stories and their daily lives.
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. But for the last fifty years, the novel’s celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown for decades, trying and failing to get an interview. Then in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation—and a wonderful friendship.
Mills lived next door to the Lee sisters for eighteen months, sharing coffee and trips to the Laundromat, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper. Harper Lee (Nelle to her friends) shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life. The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is also a record of the Lee family history, and a testament to their great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power.
Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle, to be part of the Lees’ life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and the reasons Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.
“There are many reasons to be grateful for The Mockingbird Next Door, Marja Mills’s wonderful memoir. …a zesty account of two women living on their own terms . . .The world she depicts is sadly gone, but — lucky for us — she caught it just in time.“ –The Washington Post
“It’s a testament to one-time Chicago Tribune reporter Mills’ skill … that she …was chosen to set the record straight on Lee. A wonderful, insightful and long overdue tale about the author of one of the greatest American novels..“ –New York Post