Afternoons with Harper Lee

NewSouth Bks. Oct. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781588384874. $25.95. LIT
Part memoir, part biography, this book presents a chatty reminiscence of ten years of close friendship between Harper Lee and Flynt (emeritus, history, Auburn; Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee) and his wife, both fellow Alabamians who met Lee through her sisters and visited her until her death in 2016 at age 89. Flynt was Lee’s chosen eulogist. Interwoven with accounts of their visits are asides on subjects like Alabama history and the family backgrounds of the Lees, the author, and his wife. Their conversations covered a wide range of subjects, prominent among which was racism. Noting that Alabama nourished Lee while New York City shaped her, Flynt speculates that her commitment to racial justice may have triggered her move north. Other topics include literature (Lee especially admired Jane Austen), religion, Lee’s friendship with Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, and both the book and film of To Kill a Mockingbird. Of particular interest is the section on how Go Set a Watchman came to be discovered and published and the media frenzy it generated.
VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in a close-up view of the person the author calls “America’s best loved writer of the world’s most famous novel.”
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