mockingbird

“Your father’s right,” she said.  “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.  They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.  That’s why it’s  a sin to kill a mockingbird.” – Miss Maudie to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

That’s one of my favorite quotes from my favorite book and movie.  In the movie, Atticus is the one to speak it to Scout, Jem, and Walter Cunningham, but in the book, it’s Miss Maudie speaking to Scout.  Of course, it really comes from Harper Lee’s talent and heart and that quote describes her book perfectly…which is exactly what Christy and I tried to do when we started the book about our great aunt’s life in the mountains of North Carolina.

We’d heard stories all our life, both from our dad and from great aunt Bessie when she was still alive, about a life that to us was nothing short of amazing.  The stories are many and varied, but in a nutshell,  Aunt Bessie lived life her way.  Christy and I encouraged our dad to write them down, but he says he’s an artist–he paints–not a writer so we knew it would be up to us, the writers in our family.  Those stories are too precious to let them die. 

When we decided to write the book–and hopefully do justice to the stories and our great aunt’s life–we of course thought of Ms. Lee’s masterpiece and the old southern saying that she used for her title, ’tis a sin to kill a mockingbird. That adage describes her book to perfection and so, emulating our favorite author, we started searching for just the right saying for our book. When we found it, we knew it right away.

“A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end.”

It means to be who and what you’re meant to be.  That saying not not only gave us the title of the book, Whistling Woman, it also fit the main character and gave a hint of what the book was about.

Many thanks to Harper Lee for writing what we both consider the quintessential book and for giving us the idea to go looking for a quote that would describe our book as perfectly as hers describes To Kill a Mockingbird.

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