In the sequel to Tru & Nelle (2016), Christmas in tiny Monroeville, Alabama, is hardly jolly.
Drawing on real-life characters, places, and events to create a fictional world for Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Capote (Scout and Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird), Neri covers three different Christmases, a narrative arc allowing him to follow the two white children to adulthood. In the first scene, 10 days before Christmas in 1935, 11-year-old Truman returns home for a custody hearing that sends him right back to New York City with his parents. Two years later, he shows up again—having escaped from a military academy—and renews his friendship with Nelle, kisses her for the first time (though he reveals his first kiss was with a boy), antagonizes the son of the ex–Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, and witnesses racism firsthand when Nelle’s father, Amasa Coleman Lee, loses an unfair trial of black defendants unjustly accused. In the brief final section 19 years later, Truman is now a famous writer, and Nelle receives a financial gift that allows her time to write and, in time, also becomes a famous writer. Readers don’t need to know To Kill a Mockingbird to find themselves immersed in the goings-on in Monroeville.
An absorbing story of true friends in troubled times. (author’s note, acknowledgments, recipe) (Historical fiction. 10-12)