Readers who remember Atticus Finch as a bastion of goodness are in for a rude awakening in Go Set a Watchman, the follow-up to Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Gone is the honorable lawyer who captured our hearts. In his place is a cold racist.
"Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters?" asks Atticus at one point. "Do you want them in our world?" It's a bitter pill to swallow from the man who once so vehemently defended the innocence of a black man accused of rape.
But don't boycott Go Set a Watchman just yet. Here are four reasons you should read Lee's second book:
1. It's a Strong, Thought-Provoking Novel in Its Own Right
Sure, it's tough to read a book that portrays the beloved Atticus Finch as a former Klan member and a champion of segregation. But if you forget Mockingbird and take Watchman as a standalone novel, it's a deftly written tale about a young woman coping with the revelation that her father is not the hero she thought he was.
2. More Scout!
Though Watchman isn't written from the first person as Mockingbird was, the narrator's voice is still distinctly Scout's. And while Atticus may have changed, Scout (called Jean Louise, her given name, in Watchman) is still the spitfire she always was, stirring up trouble by going swimming with a man at night and insisting marriage isn't for her. (Scandalous!)
3. Lee's Writing Is Superb
Her fans have long been frustrated that Lee apparently didn't write more after Mockingbird (or did she?). Whatever you think of Watchman's Atticus, there's something undeniably comforting and familiar about sinking into Lee's prose once again.
4. It Shows You How Valuable an Editor Can Be
As the story goes, Lee originally submitted Watchman for publication in the '50s, but her editor asked her to revise it, focusing instead on Scout's youth. Two years later, Mockingbird was born, and with it the Atticus Finch we know and love. Good thing Lee's editor saw the potential for more!
Go Set a Watchman is available now ($28; amazon.com).