I'm sure that by now, we've all heard the story of Go Set a Watchman.
There was talk of a "sequel" to Harper Lee's beloved classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the word about town was that it was to be published (possibly) against Harper Lee's will. That her current caretaker was taking advantage of an older lady, and was causing her nothing but grief.
Before the book was even published, there was an ongoing hum all across the literary world about this book, and the controversy it was destined to carry.
Many of my friends told me they would not read it. No way, no how. They couldn't support a book that possibly could have been published under such questionable circumstances.
Once the book started circulating around reviewers, readers became more turned off by talk of "Atticus Finch not being the man we all came to love." I won't specify exactly what the problem was, but fans were in an uproar about one of their favorite characters in literary history showing up in a different, and less lovable, light.
Fast-forward a bit more to talk of Go Set a Watchman not being a sequel per se, but a rough copy and outline of what To Kill a Mockingbird was supposed to be. With the way it was skewered by its audience, if Go Set a Watchman was published back in the 1960s instead of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee would possibly not be the icon she is today. Actually, who knows. Perhaps everyone's expectations were too high when they heard that a "To Kill a Mockingbird sequel was coming out!" Perhaps fans of the original story judged the book before they even got their hands on it. Perhaps too many people across the world were the ones that turned this story into a flop, not the author herself.
But I digress...
I battled with it myself for a while. Do I want to read this book, and possibly sully my opinion of Scout, Atticus, and Harper Lee? Do I want to read it and see what happens, just out of curiosity? Do I want to pretend it doesn't exist and hug my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird close to my chest, shut my eyes, and pretend that the world is beautiful place where no bad sequels exist?
In the end, I figured that it was important I read the book, and form an honest, unbiased opinion of my own. I wasn't going to allow word through the grapevine to hinder my opinion of a book most folks haven't even bothered to read.
I was going in.
Now let's go back, 30 years later from where we last visited Scout...
And that's as far as I'm going, folks. If you're curious about what happens in Go Set a Watchman, I implore you to actually read it. Why?
Because. I. Loved. It.
I fell so hard for this book, it completely made me change the way I view To Kill a Mockingbird, FOR THE BETTER. I can't guarantee that every reader will have the same marvelous reading experience that I had, but you most certainly will not know unless you try.
I prepared myself for awful writing, a weak plot line, and for my beloved characters to turn into hideous, child-feasting monsters, but that didn't happen.
What did happen? Harper Lee's characters came to life.
No longer was Atticus Finch a man from the 1930s who was too good to be true. He has now become human.
No longer was Scout a wide-eyed little girl, just learning about the cruelties of the world. She has now become a woman, wise and powerful beyond her years, and won't stand for anything unsavory.
No longer was Maycomb County the County you knew when you first picked up To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb County is now an entity you would see through the eyes of a grown up Scout.
Go Set a Watchman made To Kill a Mockingbird real. Go Set a Watchman is the other half of the story I didn't know I needed in my life until now. It packs such a powerful punch, I felt breathless when I finished the last page. Then cue wracking sobs that coursed through my body for the next two hours.
I don't know what the critics of this book found when they opened it up...I don't know what readers read that turned them off so, but I'm glad I didn't have that experience. I'm glad I was able to go into this book with an open heart, and an open mind, and take something beautiful and meaningful from it. (And in my opinion, some of the negatives that were taken from this book wouldn't have been negatives at all if the critics actually finished the book.)
In my opinion, this book was cursed from the very beginning. It didn't have a chance.
As I said, not everyone will have this experience. You may read this review, pick up the book, and curse me for misleading you. (There's honestly nothing I can do about that!) But this is what I took from Go Set a Watchman, and I regret nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Go Set a Watchman was everything I could have wanted (and much, much more) in a "sequel," "rough draft," or whatever you want to call it. I am fully aware that I am currently, and possibly will forever be, in the small percentage of people who actually like or even love this book, and I've come to terms with it. It's not the first time one of my favorite books has been raked over the coals.
This book left an impression on my soul, and I will hold it close to my heart wherever I go.
So, readers, I implore you. Please read a book before you carve your opinion of it in stone. No good will ever come of that. If I had listened to all of the negative gossip and reviews of this book, I never would have had the extraordinary reading experience I just had. So please, think before you read.