August 2014 Indie Next List
“At long last the reclusive author Harper Lee and her spirited sister, Alice, decided to share the story of their lives, choosing journalist Mills, who became their friend and neighbor in the process, as their biographer. Mills has a gift for listening with respect and retelling with careful observation. Her tale unfolds slowly, without drama, revealing the deep, rich lives of the sisters beneath the quiet surface of their small town routines. Immensely satisfying!”
— Ellen Davis, Dragonwings Bookstore, Waupaca, WI
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 ChicagoTribune and a staff Pulitzer Prize winner for a 2001 seriesabout O Hare Airport entitled Gateway to Gridlock. The Mockingbird Next Door is her first book."