Book Review | Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Photo courtesy of Harper Collins

I recently finished reading a really moving book by Nina Sankovitch titled “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading.” For a book lover like myself, the premise hits pretty deep. To spend a year simply enjoying a new book each day is a dream. But for Sankovitch, the mission to read with such frequency — and to share her experience via her blog — was more about recovery and restoration, than pure enjoyment.

After the death of her eldest sister, Sankovitch found that she wasn’t truly able to move past the earliest stages of grief. Because Sankovitch always shared a love of books with her family, and because she understood what so many of you do — that reading a good book allows us to escape our lives long enough to sort through the tough decisions and wade through the hardest moments — she took on the challenge as though it were a form of therapy itself. 

“Words create the stories that become history and become unforgettable. Even fiction portrays truth: good fiction is truth…The only balm to sorrow is memory; the only salve for the pain of losing someone to death is acknowledging the life that existed before. Remembering someone won’t literaylly bring them back…but rememberance is the bones around which a body of resilience is built.”

Such is the journey that Sankovitch shares with her readers on a deeply personal level. So too does she share her personal revelations throughout the year.

“The truth of living is proved not by the inevitability of death, but by the wonder that we lived at all. Remembering lives from the past ratifies that truth, more and more so the older we get.”

Not only does the book delve into the darker aspects of grief, but Sankovitch balances it very well with great moments of humor as well; including the telling of family memories, such as how one Christmas décor tradition took over a great part of the family household each year.

In addition to her honesty and her thought-provoking revelations, Sankovitch weaves the plots and characters of many of the books she reads into her book as well — which left me updating my account regularly. I would highly recommend this book, as well as following Sankovitch’s lead — while most of us can’t afford to read a new book each day, reading more is certainly good for us all. At least, I think so; wouldn’t you agree?

A copy of “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” was provided by Harper Perennial.


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