A New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
An AudioFile Editors’ Pick for July 2014
One of Barnes & Noble's Biggest Books for July 2014
A Barnes & Noble Editor’s Recommendation
A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, July 2014
An AudioFile Best Audiobook of the Year for 2014
A July 2014 LibraryReads Pick
A BookPage Top Pick for July 2014
An Amazon Best Book of the Month for July 2014
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 McDonald’s 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’ 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.
“You might come to The Mockingbird Next Door to find out why Harper Lee never wrote another novel. But you’ll stay with it for its lush evocation of the South, and for the insight into what made this reclusive author the person she became.”
Elizabeth Berg, New York Times bestselling author of Open House
“Marja Mills offers readers a rare gift, the opportunity to know an American icon…I promise that the real Harper Lee is more than worth the wait, and Alice Lee emerges as a fascinating character in her own right. Mills was lucky enough to be invited into the lives of the Lee sisters, and it’s a treat for all of us to join her there.”
Andrew Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of War Letters
“In telling their story in The Mockingbird Next Door, Mills writes with the amazement of one who feels kissed by fate. We in turn are blessed with an intimate portrait of Lee.”
“This glimpse of a rare bird is delightful.”
“An intimate, moving book about a rare talent.”
“Reading The Mockingbird Next Door is like opening a window into Harper Lee’s private world. As the window closes on the last page, we’re left with nostalgia for one of literature’s greatest talents and the feeling we had the very first time we read her remarkable novel.”
“Mills has done what no writer before her could: she got Harper Lee to open up about her life, her work, and why she never wrote another book.”
O, The Oprah Magazine
“Charming…The Mockingbird Next Door offers a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters’ lives…The world that Mills was invited into over a decade ago has disappeared: both Alice (now 102) and Harper Lee (now 88) are in nursing homes, memories faded. Fortunately, in Mills, the sisters found a genteel family chronicler knocking at their door at the eleventh hour.”
NPR Fresh Air
“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 valuable artifact. It’s also a thoughtful, sweet-tempered, witty piece of work…The Mockingbird Next Door offers a winning, nuanced portrait. Indeed, given Lee’s deep privacy and advanced age, it seems unlikely we’ll ever have a better record of a remarkable American life.”
“Underneath the plain, clear language of The Mockingbird Next Door is an enchanting, atmospheric portrait of two sisters and the southern town they inhabit (when Harper Lee is not living in New York). Mills makes a point of avoiding gossip, but that hardly matters. The book is compelling and charming; and it brings Harper Lee and her world, both past and present, to full life.”
Amazon.com, editorial review
“For a decade, Chicago Tribune’s Maja Mills was not only welcomed into the home of the Lee siblings; she was eventually encouraged to become their next door neighbor. In this unique memoir, Mills writes about two unique women who retained their dignity even in the midst of celebrity madness. (P.S. The Mockingbird Next Door contains fascinating material on Harper Lee’s important friendship with her longtime friend Truman Capote.) Editor’s recommendation.”
Barnes&Noble.com, editorial review
“Hot Type: The Mockingbird Sings: More important than these answers, however, is the voice of Lee herself—and her message, which we still need to hear.”
“It’s a testament to one-time Chicago Tribune reporter Mills’ skill—and being in the right place at the right time—that she befriended Lee and her lawyer sister, Alice, in the author’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, and 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
“Wonderful…zesty…atmospheric…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.”
“A rare, surprising, and respectful look at the Lees and their milieu.”
“Mills recounts the surprisingly easy and natural way she did indeed meet, first, older sister Alice, a still-practicing attorney in her eighties, and then Nelle, whose sharp, eccentric personality, keen opinions, and generous reminiscences make this a must-read for fans…Nelle’s sweet friendship with Mills elicits a forthcoming portrait of the author, her family, her time, and her South that is thoughtful, witty, and rich in feeling.”
Publishers Weekly (boxed review)
“As she portrays the exceptional Lee women and their modest, slow-paced world with awed precision, Mills creates a uniquely intimate, ruminative, and gently illuminating biographical memoir.”
Booklist (starred review)
“In her first book, a journalist offers a gentle, loving portrait of a reclusive writer…Mills portrays Nelle as a grown-up Scout, the feisty and defiant heroine of Mockingbird…[A] charming portrait of a small Southern town and its most famous resident.”
“Former Chicago Tribune reporter Mills uses taped interviews and personal interactions to document her multiyear friendship (the author’s word) with Nelle Harper…Mills first met Harper in 2001, and she appears to have had the trust and friendship of the Lees while she lived next door to the technology-shy sisters in tiny Monroeville, Alabama, primarily in 2005 and 2006. However, in 2011, the novelist issued a blunt statement that she neither willingly participated in, nor authorized, Mills’ book. The author’s descriptions of shared cups of coffee, social outings, and hours of recordings, however, seem to support her claim of being invited in. Throughout the book Mills avoids any hint of gossipy tone and allows the Lees to unfold their story on their own terms. Verdict: This highly readable work details Harper Lee’s life up to her stroke in 2007. Readers will learn as much about Mills’ personal struggles with lupus as about why Lee never wrote another book and what she truly holds in her heart.”
“A lovely voice, sincere characterizations, and an engrossing story make this an exceptional listen. Narrator Amy Lynn Stewart delivers a tender interpretation of literary giant Harper Lee and her extraordinary older sister, Alice…Stewart expertly differentiates between the sisters in this compelling biographical memoir. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.”
Amy Lynn Stewart is an award-winning actor known for her roles in the short films Mama, Throttle, and Caffeinism.
- Publisher: Penguin Audio
- Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
- ISBN-13: 9780698154575