Sunday, October 25, 2015

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

This will count for the Reading Road Trip Challenge as my book for Alabama. This was also a book club book.

So I debated back and forth on reading this, decided not to read it, and then our book club chose it as a book. I had also been tempted by an older woman who told me, you need to read it and listen to Atticus' defense of his actions. I struggled with the idea that Harper Lee never wanted this to be seen again, but after reading it, I can see its importance and hope that she will be at peace with the decision that the publisher made.
Go Set a Watchman

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorites and is one of most people's all-time favorites, mainly because of Atticus Finch. In Go Set a Watchman, 26 year old Jean Louise Finch is returning home from New York to visit Macomb County, Alabama, her home. Called Scout when she was younger, she is now Jean Louise and is expected to act like a southern lady, virginal and demure. Jean Louise tries to behave to please her Aunt Alexandra, but as usually she gets into a bit of trouble. Jean Louise has one issue that she feels most people in her world do not have, she is color blind. Being raised by Calpurnia, a black woman, and Atticus, a white man who represented a black man in a rape trial, Jean Louise never developed the idea that races are different. Now it is the time of segregation and the fight against integrating the schools and Jean Louise is trapped with knowing integration is right and hating that the Federal Government has forced it on her beloved South. Along with this, she witnesses Atticus and her boyfriend/ best friend Henry Clinton attending a Citizen's Council meeting and she feels everything she has ever known was a lie. What do you do when your idol falls and how do you rebuild when your hero becomes human? What is the truth and how do you live with views that differ from those you love?

I was sad about Jem being gone by the beginning of the story and that some of the beloved characters from the first story were absent or only had minor roles. Harper Lee examines the South after WWII and Jean Louise returns home to fear between the races and the struggle of reconciling the past with the present. The South was still entrench with state's rights and fear of a strong government and where the poor whites and blacks fight to survive. Lee does not sugarcoat all of the racism in the South or in the North at the time, but brings it to light in a way that does affect our view of the characters of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a powerful book and Lee has not destroyed Atticus in this, but rebuilt Scout. We all face the moments when our parents become fully human to us and when we have to build our own consciences that may not fit in with our pasts or with the ones our loved ones hold. Growing up is hard and fighting for what we believe is hard, but it is something we must do. Sometimes we must be the Watchman, the one who embraces the role of being the only voice dissenting a majority opinion, the only voice that is willing to stand up for what you believe. A Watchman does not abandon its community, but stands strong in it. As is To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a beautifully written book and one that needed to be told. It is not as polished as To Kill a Mockingbird, but it is powerful. This ranks right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird to me. 5 cups of cocoa!

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