Harper Lee, aka Nelle Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is the focus of author Marja Mills’ bio The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, which hits shelves Tuesday. It purports to be a rare in-depth look at the lives of Lee and her sister Alice, borne out of a years-long friendship between Mills, a former Chicago Tribune journalist, and the Lee sisters, whom she moved next door to in 2004.
According to the book’s description, Mills “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.” The Lee sisters, it says, “decided to let Mills tell their story.”
But, there’s just one problem. According to a letter penned by none other than 88-year-old Nelle Harper Lee herself—who, mind you, hasn’t written a book since Mockingbird, doesn’t grant interviews, and generally stays out of the public eye—The Mockingbird Next Door was executed without her cooperation or permission and based on false pretenses. Lee first issued a statement on the matter in 2011 when Penguin Press announced that it had acquired the book. Now, on the evening before its July 15 release, she’s reminding us that nothing has changed on her end.
Take a look at Lee’s statement in its entirety after the jump, where she reiterates her declaration that she had not “willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills.” And, in case that isn’t clear enough, she also says, “rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” Penguin Press and Mills also responded Tuesday morning with their own statements.
The statement from Penguin Press issued Tuesday morning reads: “Penguin Press is proud to publish The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills today. Mills’ memoir is a labor of love and Marja Mills has done an extraordinary job. We look forward to sharing her story of the wise and wonderful Lee sisters with readers.” The publishing house also provided a dated letter from Mills and one from Alice Lee from 2011.