The long-awaited Harper Lee novel Go Set a Watchman hit bookshelves July 14. To celebrate the release, bookstores across the country held themed parties. Some screened the 1962 movie To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck. Others served southern food or opened at midnight, when bookstores were allowed to start selling the new book. The Vermont Book Shop took a different approach.
The Middlebury bookstore hosted a "Tequila Mockingbird" happy hour at a local bar where readers could purchase their copy, come together and reflect on what the release means to them, all while sipping drinks inspired by Lee's works.
Not long after the event started, Alicia Romero, a former English teacher and school principal arrived to take a look at the much anticipated new book. "Of course I taught To Kill A Mockingbird for forever, so I'm very excited to read this," she said, turning the hardcover of Go Set a Watchman over in her hands. "Someone said that To Kill a Mockingbird is the child's point of view and this is the grown up, so I'm very anxious to read this," says Romero. "It's an important literary event. And I'm glad that it's being celebrated."
Her drink pairing for the novel? The "Go Get a Scotch, Man." The drink, a play on the title of Lee's new novel, is scotch, Sierra Mist and lime juice.
Jenny Lyons, sales and marketing manager at The Vermont Book Shop, was selling books and handing out buttons to enthusiastic readers. "We decided that it would be fun to celebrate the release by having a Harper Lee happy hour, inspired by cocktails created in another book by Tim Federle called 'Tequila Mockingbird'," says Lyons. "So we partnered with [local restaurant] 51 Main. They have the cocktails available for people to purchase, we have books here and we're just celebrating it." Also featured at the bar were a southern style bourbon and sweet tea and the obvious "Tequila Mockingbird," a shot of tequila with a dash of hot sauce, chased with a pickle slice. The verdict on that one was "interesting...pretty good, actually," from Shoreham's Doug Patterson.
The Vermont Bookstore opened a half hour early on the day of the book's release, just in case early risers wanted to get their hands on a copy. "There weren't people knocking down the doors," Lyons admits. "But since then, all day we have sold a lot. I mean, it feels exciting. It's a fun day to be a bookseller. Definitely."
While some readers just want to know what all the fuss is about, others see a more important element to the discussion surrounding Watchman. "You know, it's a bit amazing that this is being published right now with the national discussion on racism, which frankly is a discussion that never should have gone away," says local painter Kate Gridley. "I hope the discussion is lively and passionate and that it keeps going."
Nancy Means Wright had been reading about the controversy surrounding the book and wanted to be able to pass her own judgment. "I'm here because I've always loved To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee and I'm just interested to see what she did with her first drafts," says Means Wright. "I just want to read it and then decide for myself what I think. I've heard so many people saying you know, 'No I'm not even going to read it, I'm not going to buy it,' and so I think that's sort of silly."
Go Set a Watchman is the second novel to be published by author Harper Lee and is available for purchase now.