You can be among first to get new Harper Lee book

  • Author Harper Lee's new book, "Go Set A Watchman," will be the subject of a prelaunch party July 13 in Downers Grove.

    Author Harper Lee's new book, "Go Set A Watchman," will be the subject of a prelaunch party July 13 in Downers Grove. Associated Press file photo/Penny Weaver

 
 
Updated 7/1/2015 9:36 PM

There's so much hype around the new novel by the author of "To Kill A Mockingbird" that a Naperville book store is planning a late-night party to get "Go Set A Watchman" into readers' hands as soon as possible.

"Watchman" is Harper Lee's earliest work, written before "To Kill A Mockingbird" came out in 1960, but it was never published and now serves as something of a sequel.

 

It's set to be released July 14, and Naperville-based Anderson's Bookshop will have it available for eager readers at midnight after a party that starts at 8 p.m. Monday, July 13, at the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove.

Owner Becky Anderson said this is the first midnight release the store has hosted in two years after throwing parties for the Harry Potter series and the third installment of Veronica Roth's "Divergent" series, "Allegiant."

The enduring popularity of "To Kill A Mockingbird" and its narrator, Scout, led the shop to plan the celebration.

"'To Kill A Mockingbird' is one of those classics. Whether you had to read it or you read it on your own, it's one of those books that stays with you," Anderson said. "Everyone is really excited to know what happens to Scout after everything that happens in 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' and now here she is an adult living in New York City."

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In "Mockingbird," an adult Scout narrates a story from her childhood, one that explores sensitive topics such as racial injustice and rape as well as themes of courage, compassion, loss of innocence and gender roles in the South.

Educators, including Neuqua Valley High School English teacher John Desmond, will be at the theater to discuss the relevance of "Mockingbird" 55 years after its release.

"Part of the reason it's still taught in school is that it teaches valuable lessons about things like friendship and family and doing the right thing even when the odds are stacked against you," Desmond said.

Performers will stage scenes at the Tivoli on July 13 that tell the story of a childhood interrupted and a town torn apart by an accusation of a black man raping a white woman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There are the racial tensions that we don't get hit with in a heavy-handed way because it's written through the perspective of a child," Desmond said. "So you get sort of an innocent examination of those racial tensions."

The event also will include a showing of the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck as Scout's father, Atticus Finch, the lawyer who defends the black man in the rape trial.

Fans can get a ticket to the release party for $36, which includes a copy of "Go Set A Watchman." Anyone who buys a copy of the book from andersonsbookshop.com or (630) 355-2665 also can buy two $10 tickets for admission only.

A portion of proceeds will benefit the Charleston County Public Library's Cynthia Graham Hurd Memorial Fund established in honor of one of the victims of the church shooting last month in South Carolina.

Fans hoping to snag a library copy of the new book, meanwhile, can get in line.

Naperville Public Library has ordered 120 copies, but 250 people already have placed a hold on the book. In Wheaton and Lisle, libraries each have ordered a dozen regular copies along with two large-print editions and one or two audio books. But in Wheaton there are 55 holds and in Lisle there are a dozen.

"We're super-excited about it. We're all getting ready to read it," said Jennifer Amling at Helen Plum Memorial Library in Lombard, where 11 people have placed holds on five regular copies and two-large print versions of Lee's new work. "I know some of our book discussion librarians are looking to incorporate it into book clubs later this year."

While libraries and book shops will get "Watchman" before its July 14 release, librarians and booksellers say they won't be sneaking any peeks.

"We're keeping it under wraps," Anderson said. "We haven't seen a word of it."

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