Release of new Harper Lee novel raises concerns

Eighty-eight-year-old reclusive author Harper Lee is set to release a second novel decades after her classic To Kill a Mockingbird, which has raised concerns that she may have been pressured.

Go Set a Watchman, Lee’s first attempt at the story of Scout Finch, will be released on July 4 leaving some people wondering about elder vulnerability.

Lee currently resides in an assisted living facility in Monroeville, Alabama.

“Lost Work”

The novel entitled Go Set a Watchman was reported as a ‘lost’ work found by lawyer Tonja Carter while she was searching through Lee’s personal effects.

Carter reportedly shared the novel with some close contacts who deemed the work worthy of publishing.

Critics suggest that Lee could have been under pressure to release the book, given her current health conditions and personal choice to withdraw from public life.  She suffered a stroke in 2007 and is said to be hard of hearing and mostly blind.

Lee’s older sister and former lawyer, Alice, looked after the author’s personal affairs and shielded her from the public spotlight. Alice died in November, just months before the announcement of the novel’s release.

Related articles: 

Harper Lee said to be ‘happy as hell’ about new book

Harper Lee dismisses concerns she was ‘pressured’ into book release

Legal Safeguards

Lia Tsotsos, Principal Researcher at the Centre for Elder Research at Sheridan College, says Lee’s story may shine a light on the larger issue of elder vulnerability.

According to Tsotsos, elders can be taken advantage of if their wishes are not properly documented prior to illness.

“Our work aims to reduce elder vulnerability by empowering people to take the appropriate precautions (legal or otherwise) to safeguard their personal belongings as they age,” Tsotsos explained.

“A health incident such as a stroke can happen at any time and affect our overall health and awareness. Therefore, we recommend that people take the proper proactive steps to document their affairs and the way that they want them to be looked after.”

Prepare for aging

Tsotsos explained that preparation is crucial when it comes to protecting individuals against elder vulnerability.

“We should be preparing for the potential health ailments of aging in the same way that we prepare for our retirement,” she said.

Though the book’s publisher HarperCollins admits that they have not had direct contact with Lee, they have ‘complete confidence’ that Lee has approved its publication.

Media have reported that Lee has released a few statements through Carter regarding her happiness and amazement that the book can be published after all these years.

Lee is reportedly ‘happy as hell’ about the response to her upcoming novel.

Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

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