Earlier this week, the literary world lit up at news that Harper Collins will publish the second novel ever by reclusive author Harper Lee. On top of that, it's a sequel to the American classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. It all seemed too good to be true—and now a lot more information has come out suggesting that it perhaps is too good to be true. Or not. It's all very confusing.

The 88-year-old Lee said in a statement on Tuesday that the new novel, Go Set A Watchman, was written in the mid-1950's.

I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.

But the book wasn't released then...nor in the 50+ years since. Lee has been notoriously reclusive in the decades since publishing Mockingbird; she resurfaced in public in 2013 to file a lawsuit in Manhattan court against the son-in-law of her long-time agent, Eugene Winick, for allegedly tricking her into signing over the copyright on the book. It was revealed in that suit that she has been dealing with serious health problems when she signed the document.

According to The Atlantic, she was forced to sell her Upper East Side apartment in recent years, and now lives in an assisted-living facility in Monroeville. A friend told the Daily Telegraph that a 2007 stroke left her “95 percent blind, profoundly deaf,” and bound to a wheelchair. "Her short-term memory is completely shot, and poor in general," the friend said.

As Jezebel pointed out, Lee was always fiercely guarded by her sister Alice Lee; she protected her from unwanted outside attention as a lawyer and advocate until her death last year. Between her health issues, her sister's death, the suspicious timing of the "lost" book, and Lee's natural predilection to shy away from the spotlight, it has led many to question just how much control she can really exercise over her life right now.

Lee's biographer, Charles J. Shields, has agreed with some of the criticisms, saying that the situation indicates "an elderly woman who’s getting poor advice," and that if Alice Lee were still alive, "I doubt whether [she] would have allowed this project to go forward."

Adding loads of gasoline to the fire: multiple residents of Monroeville who have known Harper Lee for years told AL.com that they don't believe Lee possesses sufficient mental faculties to make informed decisions about her career. "I don't think she agreed to do it. I think it's her attorney being greedy, because Ms. Lee was a very private person who didn't like a lot of publicity," said Janet Sawyer, owner of the local Courthouse Café. "She had a stroke several years ago and her mind is not in a condition to make these decisions, I don't think, personally. Tonja Carter doesn't allow her to see her friends anymore. She's isolated her from the world in order to manipulate her."

Carter, who has long represented Lee and has had power of attorney over her affairs, has denied any wrongdoing by herself or publisher HarperCollins. So has Andrew Nurnberg, who has acted as Lee’s foreign-rights agent since 2013. The Guardian writes:

Andrew Nurnberg...told the Guardian that the plan had come to light in old letters between Lee and her agent. “They discussed publishing Mockingbird first, Watchman last, and a shorter connecting novel between the two. It would appear she never wrote or finished the middle novel, but it is clear that Lippincott was planning on publishing Watchman,” he said.

He dismissed as “total nonsense” allegations that Lee wasn’t well enough to make her own decisions, insisting that “this isn’t somebody with dementia who is being led up the garden path” and describing his client as “very lively, very funny” - and partial to doing CS Lewis impressions.


He described Carter as "the most honest advocate" for the author. "If Nelle had said she didn’t want it published, [Carter] would have said, OK, we won’t publish. Nelle’s interests are paramount for Tonja in her personal and professional life. Tonja is devoted to that family, to Nelle and to Miss Alice. She visits her every day.”

HarperCollins senior vice president and publisher Jonathan Burnham, has also said that "she is in good health" in an interview with USA Today. At the same time, there's some weird stuff around the margins of the announcement—like the fact that Hugh Van Dusen, Lee's editor at HarperCollins, didn't learn about the book's existence until the day before it was made public.

It's especially hard to come to any conclusions because no one can talk to Lee without going through her lawyer—and as AL.com learned, Carter is not exactly lowering a drawbridge for people to see her. Barring a video or some third party talking to Lee directly, all we are left with are the quotes that are put out through Carter or the publisher.

And to that end: HarperCollins released just such a new statement today from the author. "I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions of Watchman," said Lee.