288 pages, 9.3 × 6.5 × 1.02 in
July 15, 2014
Penguin Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 1594205191
ISBN - 13: 9781594205194
Read from the Book
Chapter OneDo you want to take a trip? You can say no.”Tim Bannon, my editor at the Chicago Tribune, stood at my cubicle. He ran the daily features section on the fifth floor of the Gothic Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago and was pleasantly low-key by newspaper standards. Tim knew I liked to travel for stories, and that if the story took me to an unusual part of the country, so much the better. I had loved spending time at a monastery in rural Missouri for one story and at The Citadel, the military college in South Carolina, for another. Tim also knew I had been out sick a lot that year, 2001. In 1995, I had been diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune condition that frequently left me fatigued. I wanted him to know I was still able to do my job. I purposely accepted before finding out more.“Sure. Where to?”“Monroeville, Alabama.”Tim saw my quizzical look and smiled.“It’s Harper Lee’s hometown. We know she doesn’t give interviews. But I think it’s worth going there anyway.”Enough said.A couple of weeks earlier, the Chicago Public Library had chosen the elusive author’s To Kill a Mockingbird as the first selection in its One Book, One Chicago program. The idea was to get Chicagoans in every corner of the city reading and discussing the same book. It didn’t hurt that To Kill a Mockingbird happened to be the favorite of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, as he told me a couple of months earlier for a story I wrote about his reading habits. That he was a reader at all surprised some fo
From the Publisher
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 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 of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation—and a great friendship.
In 2004, with the Lees’ blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.
Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story—and the South—right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.
The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle.
Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, 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 why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.
About the Author
Marja Mills is a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a staff Pulitzer Prize winner for a 2001 series about O’Hare Airport entitled “Gateway to Gridlock.” The Mockingbird Next Door is her first book.
Washington Post:"There are many reasons to be grateful for The Mockingbird Next Door, Marja Mills’s wonderful memoir of Harper Lee and her sister….Sympathetic and respectful it may be, but The Mockingbird Next Door is no sycophantic puff piece. It is a zesty account of two women living on their own terms yet always guided by the strong moral compass instilled in them by their father…. It is also an atmospheric tale of changing small-town America; of an unlikely, intergenerational friendship between the young author and her elderly subjects; of journalistic integrity; and of grace and fortitude…. Mills doesn’t avoid prickly issues, but she approaches them obliquely and accepts partial answers. Despite her enervating illness, Mills’s writing is energetic. The Mockingbird Next Door is warm yet wistful, a lament for the books Harper Lee never wrote. It ends on an elegiac note, since by the time Mills was able to complete it, the Lees were fading fast, in separate assisted-living facilities. The world she depicts is sadly gone, but—lucky for us—she caught it just in time."USA Today:“A lot of people have a lot of ideas about what it means to be American, but here’s one more: To Kill a Mockingbird . . .That fact alone makes The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir by Chicago Tribune reporter Marja Mills about her friendship with the book’s author, Harper Lee, a valuable artifact. It’s also a thoughtful, sweet-tempered, witty piece of work . . . The Mockingbird Next Door offers a winning