Her Pulitzer Prize winning book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the only one we know for sure she approved of being published, is my all-time favorite novel. Or at least that’s what I’ve always believed. I’ve just recently picked it back up after 43 years.
My thirteen-year-old self fell in love with the relationship between Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout. I’m told by others that every little girl wished they had a daddy like Atticus, but, at thirteen, I thought I was the only one.
In the book, Lee describes Atticus like this: “Jem and I found our father satisfactory; he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.” A girl being raised by a single mother, with a very charming but mostly absent father, longed for a relationship with that kind of “courteous detachment.”
Scout learned to read while sitting on Atticus’ lap every evening with the paper. She and Jem were comfortable enough with their relationship with him to refer to him by his first name—but always called him “Sir” when speaking directly to him. It was Alabama, after all. He spoke to them almost as contemporaries, and he never talked down to them
At thirteen, the worst time of my life (yours too?), I felt, at turns, both micromanaged and neglected (because everything is a blown way out of proportion when you’re a thirteen-year-old girl). Atticus’ “courteous detachment” meant neither of these things, and I adored him for it.
I’ve been afraid to re-read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, in case it didn’t live up to the “favorite” status I’ve given it all these years. I’m not done with it yet, but so far, it’s holding its own.
I’m sad to see Harper Lee go, though her quality of life had suffered over the past several years. It’s bothered me that her younger relatives sold her second book, GO SET A WATCHMAN, last year, likely without her express legal consent. She had decades to publish it, if that’s truly what she really wanted, and she didn’t.
I will read it anyway, hoping my Atticus/Scout ideal won’t be bruised too badly by it.
Goodbye, Miz Lee. Goodbye Scout. I will miss you. Y’all take care, now. Hear?