As excited as I was to read this, I opened the cover with much hesitation. What was this going to be like? Would I like it? Would I hate it? Would it affect my relationship with Mockingbird and cause me to regret the name of my firstborn?
But I could not resist the siren's call of another book by Harper Lee, especially when that book was about the same characters I had grown to love. I will do my best to not give any spoilers as I attempt to share my thoughts on the book.
Now, I fully admit I almost put the book down and walked away when I learned about Jem on page 13.... But I knew there HAD to be an explanation and I NEEDED to hear it. So I continued. I will also announce here that I am Team Dill all the way.
It took me a few chapters to leave my hesitation behind and really get into the story. About halfway through I finally realized part of why I love Mockingbird so much. It isn't that I want to be like Scout (I do), but Harper Lee writes in such a way that I AM Scout. Watchman is no different.
I giggled when it was suggested that Jean Louise parade her dress through town on a pole. I smiled at Miss Muffet's character. I have no idea what half of what Uncle Jack said meant and feel I might need to brush up on my history. Jack's confession at the end- I did not see that coming. Tears pricked my eyes as Jean Louise's world turned upside down in a heartbeat, I felt her hurt and disappointment. And I am left with this feeling of heaviness.
For 45 minutes after reading the final words, I wrestled with my emotions. These are not merely characters in a story, words on a page. The Finches are as real as you and me. We know people like them. We are people like them. I missed Dill and was saddened about Calpurnia, such an important minor character. Atticus' words to Scout at the end are exactly what makes him Atticus: "'I said I'm proud of you.' 'I don't understand you. I don't understand men at all and I never will. ' 'Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine'd....'"
I think I will likely need to read the last few chapters again and again before I can fully come to terms with all that it contained in these pages. I am certain that my reaction to this story would be very different had I not first read Mockingbird. I may not even have wanted to read it. But it is because Mockingbird came first that I am so struck by the power of these characters. I can't say that I loved it, not like Mockingbird, but it will find its place on my shelf and be reread over the years. And I may come to love it.