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Traverse City bookstore offering refunds and apologies for Harper Lee preorders

Aug 4, 2015

Author Harper Lee receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007
Credit By White House photo by Eric Draper via Wikimedia Commons

The legions of readers who love and cherish Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” were stunned and then excited at the prospect of reading her long-lost manuscript, “Go Set a Watchman.”

The story centers on Scout as a grown woman: Jean Louise Finch. Once eager readers clamped their eyes on the story, the shockwaves hit.

The beloved character of Atticus had become a bigot.

“Go Set a Watchman” was not an extension of “To Kill a Mockingbird” after all.

Brilliant Books in Traverse City has decided that if you preordered “Go Set a Watchman,” you deserve an apology and a refund.

Brilliant Books’ owner Peter Makin tells us that they decided to offer refunds because, “people had purchased the book under some false pretenses.”

Makin explains that through all the marketing and excitement as the book approached release, booksellers were encouraged to hold events like readings or viewings of “To Kill a Mockingbird” to drive preorders and maximize sales from day one. Which isn’t abnormal, that’s just how the business works.

But he says that the hype surrounding the discovery and ultimate publishing of the manuscript made “Go Set a Watchman” out to be something that it’s not.

“I think we should be very clear here, that we aren’t offering people refunds based on the content or the quality of the book. That’s not what this is,” Makin says.

Rather, he tells us that he wants to do right by his customers because he feels they didn’t get what they were expecting, as though, “you went to a favorite restaurant and you purchased a meal thinking it was one thing, turns out it was something else.”

Makin feels that had the publisher not focused on advertising the book as essentially being “To Kill a Mockingbird 2,” and instead adopted a more honest approach that judged “Go Set a Watchman” on its own merits, “they still would have sold a lot of books, but they would have done so maybe in a more straightforward way.”

He tells us that there could still be a lot of value for readers from “Go Set a Watchman,” but that they should go in with their eyes open and with a realistic understanding of what to expect.

“It was not Harper Lee’s new novel,” Makin says. “It was not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.”