Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Already Shocking Fans with Major Character Death (Audio)

Novel is author’s first since “To Kill a Mockingbird” released in 1960

Last Updated: July 10, 2015 @ 4:12 PM

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Harper Lee released the first chapter of her highly-anticipated new novel “Go Set a Watchman” on Friday.

The novel marks the first new work by Lee since “To Kill a Mockingbird” was originally published in 1960. It picks up 20 years after the events of the first book, in which Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns to Maycomb, Alabama from New York to visit her father Atticus.

The chapter begins with Jean Louise travelling by train back to Maycomb County. She goes through a brief history of the area, describing it as “a gerrymander some seventy miles long and spreading thirty miles at its widest point, a wilderness dotted with tiny settlements the largest of which was Maycomb, the county seat.”

“Bus service was erratic and seemed to go nowhere, but the Federal Government had forced a highway or two through the swamps, thus giving the citizens an opportunity for free egress,” the chapter continues. “But few people took advantage of the roads, and why should they? If you did not want much, there was plenty.”

Upon arriving in Maycomb, Jean Louise is greeted not by her father, but by Henry Clinton, a friend of her brother Jem’s and her suitor. Henry is a law school graduate whom Atticus is grooming to take over his law practice. Atticus originally intended to leave the practice to Jean Louise’s brother Jem, but the chapter states he “dropped dead in his tracks one day.”

Lee does not go into further detail about Jem’s death in the chapter, but fans were immediately saddened, as he was a major character in “Mockingbird,” and are already expressing their heartbreak on social media.

Jean Louise feels that she loves Henry, but fears that marrying him would be the easy way out. “After a few years, when the children were waist-high, the man would come along whom she should have married in the first place,” the chapter reads. “There would be searchings of hearts, fevers and frets, long looks at each other on the post office steps, and misery for everybody.”

Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961 for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It was then adapted into an Academy Award winning film of the same name starring Gregory Peck.

“Go Set a Watchman” will hit shelves on July 14. Read the full chapter here.

And if you don’t to read it, listen to Reese Witherspoon doing all the hard work below.