Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch. Harper, 2011.
The author, Nina Sankovitch, lost her oldest sister to cancer and spent several years trying to outrun her grief. She finally realized running wasn't working and decided to take solace in books. She read a book a day for a year and found comfort and wisdom in their words.
I was attracted to this book as I am all books about books. However, I quickly found that Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is not a book about books but rather a book about loss and grief and the difficulties in overcoming them. Sankovitch shares her journey towards living with her loss. She reflects on the memories resurrected by the books she reads and comes to realize the best way to carry on is to value the life her sister led rather than focusing on the tragedy of her death. There are, of course, discussions of some of the books she read, but more important are the lessons the books teach her.
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair turned into the perfect read for September 11. Not because Sankovitch’s loss was a result of that tragic day, but because of the theme of loss and the message she sends. This is a touching book that gives the read a very personal insight into the author’s thoughts and feelings. Even though Tolstoy and the Purple Chair wasn’t what I expected, I found myself drawn into Sankovitch’s life. I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you have a loss of your own to process.
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Tolstoy and the Purple Chair