The state of Alabama is now investigating potential elder abuse of Harper Lee. Ever since it was announced that HarperCollins would be publishing a new Harper Lee book this year, many have voiced concerns that someone might be taking advantage of the famed To Kill a Mockingbird author, now 88 and in an assisted-living facility after suffering a stroke in 2007.
EW editor Tina Jordan investigated the situation in a recent episode of EW Sirius XM’s “Off the Books” radio show, interviewing lawyers and elder care experts about whether Lee was possibly being taken advantage of. Journalists aren’t the only ones looking at Lee’s case now, though: According to a New York Times report, investigators from Alabama’s Human Resources Department and Alabama Securities Commission have responded to at least one complaint of elder abuse of Lee, and have spent the past month interviewing Lee, employees at her assisted-living facility, and various acquaintances of the reclusive author. According to the Times, these organizations investigate potential financial fraud against the elderly. The investigation is a month old now, but if and when investigators find evidence of abuse, they can involve law enforcement.
The investigation is apparently still ongoing, but like every development in the ongoing Go Set a Watchman narrative, this latest story raises questions. Different sources give completely different pictures of the aging Lee. Some say she’s cogent and witty, while others describe various memory problems.
The story also quotes Greg Norris, the president of the Monroe County Commission, saying “I just don’t know why people would be so negative. We are a poor rural county and this new book puts us on the map again.”
Which gets at the heart of this matter: To Kill a Mockingird means so much to so many people, and the financial and reputational stakes are so high that some feel it’s imperative to make sure matters are being handled appropriately—and with Lee’s consent.