Why is it that I have my very best ideas while I’m doing something that absolutely prevents me from capturing those ideas on paper or the computer screen? I had a review of this book written up in my head earlier today. Where was I? In the shower, of course. 🙂
In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth is a short coming-of-age novel about a bookish girl named Erin whose favorite book of all times is To Kill a Mockingbird. Can any of you, my faithful readers, relate? (Well, I’ve more than doubled Erin’s age, but I still love TKM, and I always will.) Erin’s love for To Kill a Mockingbird is magnified by the fact that she possesses her deceased mother’s copy, worn and dog-eared, with notes written in her mother’s own hand.
Erin lives with her widowed father and two older brothers. All of the males in her life excel at and are obsessed with sports, so Erin often feels like a stranger in her own home. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Erin’s dad announces his engagement (to his volleyball coach girlfriend, no less). As a peace offering/birthday gift, Erin’s dad presents her with her mother’s teenage journal. Erin learns that like her, her mother aspired to be a writer and that she had actually written a letter to TKM’s reclusive author, Harper Lee. Erin impulsively decides to hop a Greyhound to Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee’s home. What ensues is Erin’s fly-by-night trip from Minneapolis to Alabama, a journey on which she meets two special people who believe in her and encourage her dreams.
I really enjoyed this short novel. (I keep saying “short” because I just finished this novel which was anything but short.) It is a rather simple story; one might even call it predictable. However, I think the endearing subject matter is what makes it a winner in my book. Set in 1986, the novel also contains many overt references to styles and fashions of the 1980s which seemed a little unneccessary to me. The idea that a sixteen year old girl would travel alone for 1000+ miles on a bus is jarring to twenty-first century sensibilities, as well, but it works here. In Search of Mockingbird reminds me a lot of Joan Bauer’s novels stylistically and thematically, especially Rules of the Road.
You can read more about Loretta Ellsworth, the author of In Search of Mockingbird, on her website.
Reading this novel made me all nostalgic for TKM. I love what Ellsworth writes in her acknowledgments at the end of her novel:
And a special thank-you to Harper Lee for inspiring writers to strive for what she’s already attained: perfection.
Sigh. Ain’t it the truth?
For some reason, I thought Harper Lee had died, but I found this picture of her receiving an award from President George W. Bush back in 2007. According to this website and everything else I can find about her, she is still very much alive. 🙂