The announcement last week that “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee would release a second novel after a more than 50-year hiatus prompted concerns that the 88-year-old author was not in any condition to authorize the publication of the novel, titled “Go Set a Watchman.” The literary icon’s lawyer has rebutted those suggestions, claiming that Lee was “extremely hurt and humiliated” at the suggestion that she had been duped, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
“[Lee] is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel,” lawyer Tonja B. Carter said to the Times. “Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making.”
The publicity-shy author, who had long insisted that she would never publish another novel, now resides in an assisted-living facility and is nearly blind and deaf, NBC reported. Because of this, many have questioned whether the author may have been pressured or manipulated into publishing the long lost novel. People in Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, were particularly skeptical, with many questioning why the author, who stopped giving interviews back in the 1960s, would endorse such a project.
Multiple residents of the town who claimed to have known Lee for years said last week that they doubt that the author possessed the mental faculties necessary to make informed decisions about her career, AL.com reported.
Scrutiny over the decision has increasingly focused on Carter, who has come to serve as a sort of gatekeeper for the author, controlling outside access to Lee. Carter told the Times that she was distressed by the idea that she would exploit Lee, saying that “nothing can describe how I feel” about those suggestions. “I am a lawyer, not a celebrity. The focus should be on the gift Harper Lee is giving the world,” she said.
Carter’s assessment of Lee’s capabilities appeared to be backed up by Cynthia McMillan, a resident assistant at the facility in which Lee resides. McMillan told the Times that Lee was cognizant of what was taking place with the new novel and described her as “sharp as a tack.”
“She seems excited about it, and it has given her something to focus on since her sister died,” she said.