Marja Mills, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, spent 18 months living next door to Harper Lee and her sister Alice. Maureen Corrigan reviews Mills’ book about the experience, titled The Mockingbird Next Door:
Rather than warmed-over gossip, what The Mockingbird Next Door does offer is a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters’ lives. By the time she moved to Monroeville, Mills had been diagnosed with Lupus and was out on disability from the Chicago Tribune. Consequently, she entered easily into the world of the Lees and their “gray-haired crew” — all of them shared aching joints and free time to talk about books and local history, to go fishing and take long car rides into the country. Mills says she had to watch herself with Harper, who had more of an “edge” than her older sister Alice. Whereas Harper could shut down a conversation with a frosty stare or a few choice cuss words, Alice comes off as gracious, grounded and principled. During her long legal career, she was a steady proponent of The Civil Rights Movement, prompting Harper Lee to refer to Alice admiringly as: “Atticus in a skirt.”
Photo: Book author Harper Lee and Mary Badham (in the tire swing), who plays Scout in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are shown on a film set at Universal Studio in 1961.