Why I’m Conflicted About Go Set a Watchman

wpid-wp-1436965634382.jpeg You know the story of Peter taking a hop off a boat to go walking on the water with Jesus? It was an impulsive choice, one made before a second thought had a chance to say, “Um…Peter, you might sink”. And Peter didn’t sink – well, not at first. It wasn’t until he realized what kind of craziness it is to walk on water that he started dropping into the deep.

Fortunately, Jesus is in the pulling people up business and He did just that.

Anyway, I relate with Peter in that story (and in the one where he slices off the soldier’s ear as he’s attempting to drag Jesus away – not the sword part, but the impulsive part. And the temper).

I can be impulsive. I don’t think ahead. I don’t question until sometimes it’s too late.

That’s what happened on the day I heard Harper Lee’s much longed for second novel would release.

Without a thought of “Remember how Auntie Harper said she’d never publish anything again?” I went over to Barnes and Noble’s website and preordered the book, not knowing if I’d be able to wait the few months before it arrived at my door.

A couple hours later I started to have doubts.

“I’m afraid it won’t be as good as To Kill a Mockingbird,” I wrote in an email to an author friend.

“It won’t be,” she answered. (She’s also a very honest friend).


Then came the blog posts with a list of controversies surrounding the release of the book. Is Harper Lee being abused by her caretakers? Is her attorney exploiting her? Does she want this novel published? Atticus is really a racist!

I thought about canceling my order. Even went to the website to do so.

But I didn’t. I thought I’d wait. Think about it some more. See if any other revelations came up.

Then I heard that Lee was happy about the release. Then I heard that there was no abuse.

I’ll be honest, I thought it was all going to be all right (I’m not much of a realist, I suppose).

My copy arrived yesterday. I tore the package open to see the gorgeous cover art. I Instagrammed it. Shared it on Facebook. Friends voiced concerns over reading it. They feared they wouldn’t like it as much as Mockingbird. They feared the downfall of Atticus from the pedestal he’s occupied for 55 years.

So, I gave myself a moment to think. Why am I planning on reading Go Set a Watchman? Why do I feel so conflicted?

I want to read it because I love story. I’m curious about literature. I’m a student of the American novelists. I want to study the structure of Watchman (I understand that it’s a draft, not a complete novel, which I find fascinating to pick apart).

But what if it’s not great or even good? I’m prepared for that. This is the very least of my concerns. Some of my favorite authors have books I didn’t enjoy (I’m looking at YOU, Steinbeck). It won’t diminish Lee at all in my mind.

What if Atticus turns out to be a huge jerk? Yup. Ready for it. I’ll be bummed, but it won’t crush me. Here’s how I’m going to look at it. There’s an Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird and there’s an Atticus of Go Set a Watchman. I can keep them in two different boxes in my mind. And while I’m on the subject of Atticus, I need to say that he can’t be worshipped. He can’t be a savior. He’s a character modeled after a man (in fact, modeled after Lee’s own father, who changed his opinion about race at a few different times in his life).

What if it turns out Harper Lee is being ripped off? Well, I’d feel awful. This is my biggest conflict in purchasing the book. I fear this may be true. I don’t know what I’d do. This is something to ponder.

What if she never wanted anyone to read it? This bothers me, too. Recent statements supposedly from Harper Lee say she’s happy about it. She even had a nice lunch reception to sign a few books. But what if she’s just horribly confused about the whole thing? Would it be a violation? I don’t know. I just don’t.

So, I’m going to put my copy of Harper Lee’s most recent novel on my shelf. I’m going to wait. I’m going to pray about it. I’ll try to avoid any articles about it (good luck, right?).

This book I’ve been chomping the bit to read will have to wait a bit. Maybe a few weeks or months. Maybe even a year. I don’t know.

I’ll need to contemplate on the quote which graces the back cover.


I’ll set my own watchman.

9 Comments on “Why I’m Conflicted About Go Set a Watchman

  1. Susie, I’ve had my own misgivings about this new release. I’m excited about it, but for some strange reason I haven’t been compelled to order it yet. It isn’t that I don’t want to read the book. It’s the news people and rumormongers that have raised questions in my mind. My TBR piles are somewhat daunting too. I have books that I’ve purchased that I don’t dare take the time to read because I’m committed to reading for reviewing. Maybe that’s my reason for hesitating. I’m not sure, but I do know that eventually I’ll probably pick up a copy of the book and hopefully not be disappointed. Thanks for sharing your hesitation!


  2. Loved this, Susie! You brought up stuff I didn’t think about, which I’m not sure I’m thankful about…ha ha! (I bought the book today–had to, on the 14th.) Lorilee Craker talked about the book the very same way, with mild trepidation. She feels much like you do. I say…jump in, girl! Let the chips fall. Don’t overthink it. Take it as it is. It’s true, I’m relatively free of scuttlebutt on the book since I’m a news and social media hermit (my husband has to tell me when things happen), but I’m not sure I’d listen anyway. It’s Harper Lee. If she does half as good a job as she did with Mockingbird, you’ll still have a good read. Watchman will negate nothing (that sounds a bit redundant…) from Mockingbird. Besides–I’m not afraid for you. If it doesn’t meet expectations, you’re a tough cookie and you’ll forgive Harper. Whenever you do decide to read it, read fearlessly.


    • When my husband read this post he told me I was overthinking it. 🙂 I asked if he’d expected anything else from me.

      I’d love to have a discussion group about it once a few literary people I know have finished. That would be a good processing tool, I think. I’ll have to figure that out some time.

      And thanks for calling me a tough cookie. It’s all an act. 🙂


      • Love the idea of a group discussion on this! Holler at me when you’re done. I won’t start it myself for some time, as I have an armpit-high pile I need to attack, but I’d love to be in on it. I’ll make myself (best as I can) deaf to any other editorials until we talk!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. hmmmm … think of some of it like this: if you had “what if’d” yourself .. you’d never have written your extremely wonderful awesome books! There are always “what ifs”. You get to decide what is right for you.

    lol, I must also confess I have not even read To Kill a Mockingbird. What kind of bad am I?


  4. Pingback: The Beach, Fair Skin, Books, and an Umbrella | Susie Finkbeiner

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