Harper Lee Reiterates That Marja Mills's 'Mockingbird Next Door' Wasn't Given Her Blessing
UPDATE: According to EW, Penguin Press has issued a statement defending Mills's work. The statement, published in its entirety on EW's website, includes that the publishing company is proud to release The Mockingbird Next Door. They also provide two additional letters, one from Mills and one from Alice Lee in 2011, which seek to further Mills's case that the book was written with the Lee sisters' knowledge. Mills writes:
I can only speak to the truth, that Nelle Harper Lee and Alice F. Lee were aware I was writing this book and my friendship with both of them continued during and after my time in Monroeville. ... I am so grateful for my time with the Lee sisters. It was the honor of my life when they both gave me their blessing to write my book.
Both letters are available for view at EW.
EARLIER: Marja Mills's The Mockingbird Next Door will hit shelves on Tuesday to much anticipation and lots of critical acclaim. The memoir tells the story of Mills's neighbors, the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird Nelle Harper Lee and her sister Alice. Mills, who moved next door to the pair in 2004, formed a long friendship with Nelle (Harper) and Alice and, according to the book's description:
spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.
And most importantly, the former Chicago Tribune journalist claims that the Lees were okay with Mills telling their story.
But, according to EW, Harper Lee has released a statement that says Mills didn't have her and her sister's blessing like she claimed. On the evening before the release of The Mockingbird Next Door, the 88-year-old Lee wrote a letter denying any cooperation in the existence of Mills's book, adding that "as long as I am alive, any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood." Loud and clear, Harper.
This isn't the first time Lee made clear that she didn't endorse The Mockingbird Next Door; in 2011, when the book was first announced, she issued a statement saying, "Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false." (Mills claimed Lee cooperated after Lee had a stroke, which Lee denies.)
EW has Lee's full statements from both Monday night as well as 2011 — Lee packed an extra punch by including both together — which you can view over at the EW site.