Reviews for The Mockingbird Next Door

by Marja Mills

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Former Chicago Tribune reporter and first-time author Mills befriended the famously private Lee sisters of Monroeville, Ala., back in 2001, and moved into the house next door in 2004. Initially on assignment from her newspaper to gather information on Harper Lee (known as Nelle), neither Mills nor her cameraman, Terrence James, had any illusions about succeeding where countless other journalists had failed. But they were charged with at least trying to make contact with the famously reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Here, Mills recounts the surprisingly easy and natural way she did indeed meet, first, older sister Alice, a still-practicing attorney in her 80s, and then Nelle, whose sharp, eccentric personality, keen opinions, and generous reminiscences make this a must-read for fans. Subjects covered include the tribulations attending a first-time novelist's instant fame to Lee's childhood friendship with Truman Capote. An atmospheric image of the South, then and now, emerges as Mills recounts daily life with the sisters, as well as time with Nelle in her longtime second home, New York City. While upfront about what few areas (mostly "to spare the feelings" of living persons) must remain off the record, 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. Agent: Miriam Altshuler, Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Former Chicago Tribune reporter Mills uses taped interviews and personal interactions to document her multiyear friendship (the author's word) with Nelle Harper Lee (b. 1926), author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Mills focuses on Lee, her sister Alice Finch Lee, and their charming coterie of mostly septuagenarian and octogenarian friends, as they go visiting, to the laundromat, and feed ducks at the end of the day. 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, AL, primarily in 2005 and 2006. However, in 2011, the novelist issued a blunt statement that she neither willingly participated in, nor authorized, Mills's 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's personal struggles with lupus as about why Lee never wrote another book and what she truly holds in her heart. [See Prepub Alert, 1/26/14.]-Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Harper Lee, author of the national touchstone, To Kill a Mockingbird, withdrew from the relentless vortex of fame and never published another book. Her silence, like that of J. D. Salinger, has been a compelling literary mystery. When To Kill a Mockingbird was chosen for One Book, One Chicago in 2001, Chicago Tribune reporter Mills traveled to Lee's Alabama hometown, certain that she would never get anywhere near the author. Instead, Mills found herself living a literary fairy tale, as Alice, Harper's older sister by 15 years, still working as an attorney in her nineties, ushered Mills into their book-filled home. Soon Mills, much to her astonishment, is watching football games, going fishing, and sharing meals with Alice, Nelle (Harper is her middle name), and their friends. When the Lees express their hope that Mills will record their reminiscences and set the record straight, she rents the house next door and devotes herself to listening to tales of the Lee family; Nelle's relationship with their childhood neighbor, Truman Capote ( Truman was a psychopath, honey ); and the nearly overwhelming repercussions of Nelle's novel. Mills' struggles with lupus bring her even closer to the sisters. 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.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist