There were two stages of reaction to the news that Harper Lee will be publishing a second novel this year. The first was unrestrained joy from fans: After all, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beloved books of the 20th century, and many fans had all but given up hope of ever seeing another work from Lee, let alone a sequel featuring some of the same characters.
But then there was the second stage: suspicion. After decades of refusal to publish anything else, why would Lee, now 88, finally agree to release Go Set a Watchman? Contrary to what initial press releases suggested, this was not a “lost” manuscript; it’s been in Lee’s safe for years. There are other strange circumstances here as well. Lee moved into assisted-living after suffering a stroke in 2007, and her sister Alice said around that time that “she can’t see and can’t hear, and will sign anything put in front of her by anyone she has confidence in.” Alice, a lawyer, fought to protect her sister’s rights for years in all the various legal battles caused by a property as valuable as To Kill a Mockingbird; Lee often referred to her as “my Atticus.” This Go Set a Watchman news comes just a few months after Alice died at the age of 103.
EW senior editor Tina Jordan delved deep into this sticky situation on last Friday’s episode of EW Sirius XM’s “Off the Books” radio show. Jordan interviewed authors, lawyers, and doctors to try to figure out why Go Set a Watchman is coming out now, and whether someone might be taking advantage of Harper Lee. Listen to the full episode below, and check out “Off the Books” every Monday at 6 p.m.