A word of warning: I am not a professional critic. I took a few college English classes ages ago and I can help my teenagers write well enough to pass their tests. I wouldn’t even call these reviews. They are simply whatever thoughts passed through my head while reading. Now, onto the books!
Almost everyone who has been through public/private school in the last several decades knows this book. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is on required reading lists all over the country. It’s an open question how much stays with you, though; for myself, I vaguely remembered the plot and one of the characters, but nothing more. This made it perfect for my reading list. As a bonus, someone was getting rid of a copy and I snagged it for my personal library, so no check out from the public library was necessary.
The story is set in Maycomb, Alabama circa early 1930s. The main characters are members of the Finch family: Atticus and his two children, Jem and Scout. Having lost their mother some years ago, the kids are happy being raised by their lawyer father and their housekeeper, Calpurnia.
They get into the sort of scrapes you’d expect in a small town. Reclusive or irritable neighbors, a mad dog, spooks that come out at night, and school troubles all give us the picture of children just becoming aware of the larger world around them. Sometimes that world makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t, but they muddle through it just the same. Each day is another chance to make a different decision or stick to the one you’ve already made.
Along the way we get to know Atticus. Among other things, he is trying to teach his kids, “Don’t judge. There is always more to the story. You just don’t know what it is yet.” Since that is one of the lessons I’m trying to teach my own kids, it was interesting to see how the novel handled it. For the most part, I agreed with his actions. He was a good father doing the best he could to help his children see the good in people, not just the bad.
But that teaching is put to the test when he takes an unwinnable case. Then we see the depths to which people can sink when their beliefs are challenged. But we also see how people can rise above the customs of their community to act in a manner both fair and just. Cowardice and courage are both on display, from the smallest person to the pillars of the community.
Getting through dozens of pages at a time was nothing, as the story moved at a good pace. I liked how she kept the rumblings of trouble at bay for so long, letting a small child be our narrator. Hearing about the problems of children set against the background of adult problems and then the two words colliding, made for enjoyable reading. Given that the last two books I read I had to power my way through them, it was a nice change.
P.S. I realize this is a little late, but prepartions for traveling took over writing time. I’m finishing this post while looking at the beautiful sand beaches of Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Guess what my next post will be about?