To Kill a Mockingbird is so well-known that its rare to run across any adult who is not familiar with at least the movie, if not the book written by Harper Lee. Many people think of Lee as being a reclusea one-book-wonder, even. But, it is actually these things that make people yearn for more information about the author. Why doesnt she have a public persona? Why has she published only one book, when that one is so successful and so famous?
Kerry Madden has taken on the challenge of answering these and other questions in her Harper Lee biography from the Up Close series. Madden carefully explains from the beginning that Nelle Harper Lee is not a believer of biographies about people still livingwhich Lee still is, albeit in her eighties now. So the author lives shielded from the press. She declined an interview by Madden (and every other similar request, with a rare exception, and even then conditionally).
It is extraordinary to me, knowing this, that Kerry Madden was able to unearth as much information about Lee as she did. Exhaustive interviews with childhood friends and neighbors (the few willing to talk about Lee) during visits to Lees home town show just how much effort went into the research.
The research paid off, as the biography flows along in a friendly, narrative fashion designed to make readers feel as though theyre privy to the inside scoop about Lees life and writing career. Nelle Harper Lee may live quietly, but she lives large, just as the biography conveys. Brava to Kerry Madden for taking on a difficult subject and doing so in a respectful manner, while still being true to her own readers and their cravings for details.