Pulitzer Prize winner and "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House November 5, 2007 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Debate continues over Harper Lee’s mental state


Friends, fans, and residents in Alabama are debating whether or not Pulitzer-Prize winning author Harper Lee chose to publish the sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” this summer, which recently was rediscovered after she set it aside more than 60 years ago.

News broke last month that the 88-year-old woman will release “Go Set a Watchman,” her second novel, on July 14. Her lawyer reportedly found the original manuscript last fall, which Lee had completed but set aside during the 1950s.

Her longtime friends and residents in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, are divided over whether or not Lee really wanted to publish the pending novel, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. One side believes that her mental condition is too unsteady for her to have authorized the new book, according to the Times. The other faction, though, thinks she was fully competent to make the decision.

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The State of Alabama reportedly interviewed Lee last month after at least one complaint arose of potential elder abuse related to the publication of “Go Set a Watchman,” according to local news. Officials also spoke with employees at the assisted living facility where Lee resides, called Meadows of Monroeville. The Times reported the outcome of the investigation, still underway, is unclear.

Lee had a stroke in 2007, and suffers from hearing and vision problems, according to the Times report. 

Lee, one of the country’s most beloved and known authors, finished the literary work before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but it is being considered essentially a follow-up to that iconic best-seller. The 304-page book will be Lee’s second, and first to be released in more than 50 years. Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, plans a first printing of 2 million copies. It will also be available in an electronic edition.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” has been banned over the years because of its language and racial themes. Still, it remains an enduring popular read for middle and high school students.

Some people have questioned the timing of the book’s release. Her sister and longtime defender, Alice Lee, died just months before HarperCollins shared its plans to publish the author’s second novel.

Lee’s only statements about the new book have come through he lawyer, Tonja Carter.


Debate continues over Harper Lee's mental state