From 'Boo burgers' to 'Finch fries': Monroeville, Ala., celebrates 'Watchman'

Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman' went on sale just after midnight on Tuesday morning, and residents of the author's hometown were ready. 

Michael Spooneybarger/Reuters
Eric Richardson portraying Atticus Finch performs to the large crowd gathered to buy 'Go Set A Watchman' at Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe in Monroeville, Alabama July 13. In the southern hometown of author Harper Lee, a freight truck unloaded the first of 7,000 copies of 'Go Set a Watchman' at a small bookshop just ahead of midnight, minutes before Tuesday's release of Lee's first published novel in 55 years.

For residents of Monroeville, Ala., Harper Lee's long-awaited "Go Set a Watchman" is more than just another book: it's a chance to celebrate a homegrown legend.

Residents are marking Tuesday's release of Ms. Lee's latest book, the much anticipated sequel to her Pulitzer Prize winning novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" with a full day of celebrations, including walking tours of the town that inspired Macomb – the setting for both novels. A local café plans to serve up "Finch fries" and "Boo burgers."

"It's a full day," Amy Hill of the Monroe County Heritage Museum, told Reuters. "Miss Nelle (as Lee's friends call her) really put us on the map and we're excited about the new book."

“Go Set a Watchman” was written years before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and includes many of the same characters as the notable novel. The new work of fiction tells the tale of an adult Scout Finch and her return to Macomb.

Monroeville's Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe ordered more than 10,000 copies of "Watchman," which exceeds the number of residents in the town. A crowd of over 200 people waited outside of the bookshop to purchase the first copies when they went on sale at midnight Tuesday. The sequel is also the most preordered book on Amazon.

Despite having been written first, "Watchman" is set in the 1950s, 20 years after the setting of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Some fans of “To Kill a Mockingbird” expressed trepidation that the character of Atticus Finch, who defended a wrongfully accused black man in the original book, might be shown in a different light in the new novel. Early reviews of the book revealed that Atticus expresses racist views in "Watchman."

"I'm nervous. I'm reserving opinion, but I'm ready to be mad. He's the epitome of the moral compass," Cher Caldwell, a 43-year-old English teacher from Kentucky, told the Associated Press.

Some also speculated that the author, who lives in an assisted living facility in Monroeville, might make a public appearance. 

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.