When I wrote an article about rereading favorite books, I had To Kill a Mockingbird in mind. My decision to reread Mockingbird was somewhat controversial, from a personal standpoint, at least. After beginning this year’s reading challenge with the expectation that I would read only new material, news of actor Jonathan Crombie’s death compelled me to revisit Anne of Green Gables. Having broken my – albeit casual – vow, reading Mockingbird still felt like a well-deserved cheat.
Although the upcoming release of Harper Lee‘s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, is a great excuse to relive Scout, Jem, and Dill’s adventures in Maycomb, I didn’t pick up Mockingbird for that reason. I’m tutoring a rising 9th grader in English and mathematics, and Mockingbird was one of the four texts I selected for us to examine. So I dove back into it.
Reading about Maycomb is a lot like coming home. Granted, I grew up more than 60 years and 400 miles away from Lee’s home in Monroeville, but the small town politics, racism, and classism are still familiar. I imagine that Scout Finch’s life would have been my life, had my brothers been young enough to play with me in the same capacity as Jem and Dill. She has always been a favorite character, and I hope that, by the time of Watchman, she’s cast off her internalized misogyny.
Mockingbird isn’t a book that gets better or worse with age, though experience does afford adults a capacity to access and understand the novel in ways high school freshmen cannot. There are no great revelations to be found, at least not with one measly decade between readings. The solid, humorous prose is still there, and none of the adventures have disappeared. Here is Jem being shot at, and there are Dill’s wild claims, and then, “Hey, Boo.”
This, perhaps, makes now – before you read Watchman – the perfect time to reread Mockingbird. Lee’s first novel is the comfortable garment you slip on after a long day. Your back hurts, your feet hurt, and all you want is the comfort and familiarity of books, blankets, and tea in your home. This is a novel to recharge you, to refresh your emotional palette and make room for new arrivals.
It’s difficult to imagine talking to an audience that has not read Mockingbird, but I understand that’s entirely possible. If this is you, I strongly encourage you to buy the cheapest copy of this book than you can find. Buy it, and read it, then do whatever you like with it. You can burn it, you can eat it, you can even throw it at me (no hardcovers, please). I care much less about what you do with the book, or even how you feel about it, than I do about the fact that you have read it as an adult. Not much in Mockingbird will have changed, but you’ll be surprised how much you have.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Read all my reviews and follow me on Goodreads!