Alabama publication Al.com reports that Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at the age of 89.
Go Set a Watchman, the reclusive author’s second book, was the subject of much controversy after its 2015 release; although a state investigation found that Lee, who had a stroke in 2007 and was living in a nursing home, was not coerced into publishing the book, the novel’s quality and the fact that it surfaced directly after her sister’s death (Alice Lee had long served as the author’s counsel and “gatekeeper”) continued to raise questions.
According to Al.com, multiple sources from Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, confirmed her death on Friday morning.
Lee’s publisher, HarperCollins, has confirmed the news. According to NPR, Lee’s family issued a statement Friday saying that the author “passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing.”
Hank Connor, family spokesperson and Lee’s nephew, said:
“This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”
HarperCollins president and publisher Michael Morrison said in a statement (via ABC News) that Lee “lived her life the way she wanted to—in private—surrounded by books and the people who loved her. I will always cherish the time I spent with her.”
“When I saw her just six weeks ago, she was full of life, her mind and mischievous wit as sharp as ever,” Lee’s agent Andrew Nurnberg said in a statement released by the publishing house, ABC News reports. “She was quoting Thomas More and setting me straight on Tudor history. We have lost a great writer, a great friend and a beacon of integrity.”
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