Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

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I wish Nina well on that road that all of us take, if we live long enough. I was deeply troubled by parts of this book. I was upset that the author she casually mentioned could not So glad to find that some others felt as I did while reading this book. I was upset that the author she casually mentioned could not bring herself to attend her husband's sister's funeral; I seriously could barely read from beyond that point. Here she was expecting her entire family to pick up the slack over her year long exercise in grief especially her husband and then could not give him a fraction of the same support she expected everyone to give her.

I saw this selfishness repeated as almost a theme throughout the book--there was her son's illness which seemed to be in the way of her reading, various times when her children would call to her and while as a parent you can't always be there for your child's every whim, she seemed to throw out gestures to assuage like what one might use to put off a pesky pet.

Another time I felt incredulous was when I read about an occasion where she was with her sister and Anne Marie was lamenting how unfair it was that her life was to be cut short. Nina buried her face in her sister's sweater which she still has and wears but did not listen to anything her sister said!! She wished later she had heard those words of her sister's incredible struggle to accept her own death? Who was that event about--not Anne Marie's apparently. I have lost loved ones but never a sibling so maybe I would feel differently, but I doubt it.

I can't imagine expecting the world to stop because I grieved or my responsibility as a parent to go on sabbatical for a year. Yes, we should get all the time we may need to grieve, but most don't have the luxury to burden everyone around them with that sorrow. I think it is great that she found solace in books and her advice to search for wisdom there is right on. The book list is astounding and her accomplishment is admirable. I just struggled with several aspects of at what cost her own needs were met.

Jul 14, Carol rated it it was amazing Recommended to Carol by: I have so many GR friends to thank for their wonderful reviews and recommendation of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. It was Patti Franz and Toni Clark's comments that gave me the final push to read this. This is a book about grieving by using the power of words, books and reading to comfort the author in the death of her forty-six year old sister, Ann-Marie.

Not knowing how to cope, Nina Sankovitch tu I have so many GR friends to thank for their wonderful reviews and recommendation of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

Not knowing how to cope, Nina Sankovitch turns to books as these had always helped her in her life. Nina Sankovitch decides to read one book a day for a full year and to write about each of them. The logistics of this is not easy as she is a wife, mother of four sons, and stepmother to a daughter.

She leads a busy life but is determined to put some things on the back burner, not only for herself but also as a tribute to Ann-Marie, with whom she shared the love of reading. But where to sit? This is where the purple chair comes in. She chooses a room and in it, one big chair, raggedy looking and old and white. With our Magic Marker-- equipped one-year-old on the loose and a baby on the way, it wouldn't remain white for long. And I knew from past experience that there would be more than just juice boxes leaking on the furniture with a new baby to be fed.

The chair stayed in our apartment--as it was purchased on sale, there was no returning it--but it did not stay white for long. Patches began to appear, with a rainbow of colors, purple wine , brown coffee , pink Magic-Marker , blue bubble-gum ice cream and yellow milk. There is much about the immigrant experience, particularly about her parents experience before coming to America.

In addition Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is written with beauty and wisdom. I have never added as many sticky notes as I did during this read. Nina Sankovitch and I share at least one more thing in common. We are the common readers. View all 20 comments. Feb 25, Darlene rated it liked it Shelves: The premise of this book is a fascinating one.

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Sankovitch, who lost her older sister, Anne-Marie, to bile duct cancer at the age of 46, had been racing through the years after her sister's death at a frenetic pace, trying not to think "words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living. Sankovitch, who lost her older sister, Anne-Marie, to bile duct cancer at the age of 46, had been racing through the years after her sister's death at a frenetic pace, trying not to think about her loss and running from her fear and sorrow.

One part of me was still in her hospital room, the afternoon she died Then there was the other part of me, the part that left the hospital at a gallop and never looked back, for fear of what I would see. I began a race the the day Anne-Marie died, a race away from death, away from my father's pain, away from my mother's sorrow, away from loss, confusion and despair.

I was scared of dying, scared of losing my own life. I was scared of what dying did to family left behind, the loneliness and the helplessness. I was scared of living a life not worth living. She spent time thinking about what she and Anne-Marie had shared as sisters and friends.. So she came to the conclusion that she needed to read a book a day.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch

She needed to "sit down and sit still and read. She proceeded to set up a reading room for herself off of her kitchen. The space included a desk, a bookcase to hold the many books she would be reading, a hand-me-down computer from her teenaged step-daughter and an old reupholstered purple chair. Her rules for this endeavor, she believed, were simple but strict The books needed to be around pages so that she could finish in a day , and she needed to write about each book as she finished and for that I was hooked by Ms. From her story, I sensed that what she needed was time to grieve for her lost sister.

I know that common wisdom is that if a person experiences a loss, she should keep busy And perhaps this is good advice for some people; but for others like Nina Sankovitch.. As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate and have sought out moments of quiet where I can clear my mind and simply BE.

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And because I also know from living a life filled with the joy of books, I know reading CAN provide comfort and escape. I thought her idea was brilliant Nina Sankovitch wrote this book alternating between discussions of favorite books with little snippets of the life she had shared with her parents and sisters in Evanston, Illinois in a home filled with books and also stories of her busy life with her husband and 4 children. The book began wonderfully. I could sympathize with the young girl she had been when her best friend had moved away, leaving her forlorn and spending the summer reading 'Harriet the Spy'.

I could understand her reading the Miss Dimity mystery series by Nancy Atherton one book after the other because Miss Dimity could communicate from the afterlife. And I was curious to know her thoughts on 'Elegance of the Hedgehog' by Muriel Barbery, her first book chosen on her 46th birthday as I had also read the novel and did not enjoy it Unfortunately, for reasons I don't entirely understand, by the midway point in the book, my interest started to flag.

It began to seem that Ms. Sankovitch's writing began to meander and either she began to lose the thread of what she had been writing I did finish reading the book but I never could reach the point where I could reconnect with her story personally or with her writing. The latter part of the book seems to lack the focus and clarity she had achieved earlier and it felt at times as if she became bogged down in the strict rules she had established for herself. I'm sorry to say that I did not enjoy this book as much as I expected I would; but in the end, this ambitious project DID seem to work magic for Nina Sankovitch and brought a new purpose to her life.

And perhaps that's all that matters. View all 14 comments. View all 4 comments. Nice writing notwithstanding, I couldn't get through this book -- not even the suggested 50 page minimum -- before deciding to drop it. It's kind of ironic -- here I am on goodreads, constantly keeping up with what several people are reading and their various reactions to the books. You would think I'd love a memoir of someone's year spent reading a book a day and the various reactions the books evoked.

A Nice writing notwithstanding, I couldn't get through this book -- not even the suggested 50 page minimum -- before deciding to drop it. A Year of Passionate Reading and I can honestly say that, despite my love of books and reviews, the genre just doesn't work for me. It's one thing to read your friend's book reviews on a sporadic basis, especially if your friend is someone you know and care about.

It's another when you have no personal connection with the author and are putting other things aside to read a book-length treatise on the various books she's read integrated with a variety of loosely associated recent and not-so-recent memories. I'm sure Nina Sankovitch is a nice person, and her description of the pain at losing her sister actually choked me up.

With that said, I don't know her, and even though she can write, she couldn't make me care enough to sit through pages of her experiences. There are a few authors who can; she, unfortunately, is not one of them. View all 5 comments.

Aug 19, Hannah Greendale rated it it was ok Shelves: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is the disjointed memoir that nobody asked for. There's not enough substance in this book to warrant a novel. The author has a husband and a home; so do lots of other people. She popped out some kids; also something lots of people have done. Her beloved sister died.

Condolences, Sankovitch, but many of us know that pain too. Since most of us don't read m Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is the disjointed memoir that nobody asked for. Since most of us don't read more than one book per day, and we tend to avoid chairs that reek of urine, Sankovitch decided she was just different enough from the rest of us to justify writing a personal memoir. View all 6 comments. I feel bad for not liking this more. I mean, I liked it but I was just hoping it would be a bit more bookish. After losing her sister to cancer, Sankovitch decided to read and review one book a day for a year as a way to cope and deal with her grief.

The parts where she did discuss what she was reading and her book-filled childhood were actually really good. There were a few she talked about that I hadn't read, but she did well balancing out not giving too much away, yet making me feel like I feel bad for not liking this more. There were a few she talked about that I hadn't read, but she did well balancing out not giving too much away, yet making me feel like I wasn't missing something. The other parts were well written, but sometimes just got to be too much.

Like a Hallmark card or those inspirational pictures with quotes that people share on Facebook. Although finding out what her father's "Three in one night" comment was about was heartbreaking. I did add a few books to my to-read list because of this, and actually would recommend it as a quick read. I just wanted to be more smitten with it. May 06, Helia rated it really liked it. Sorrow is not an illness or an affliction. It is the only response possible to the death of a loved one, and an affirmation of just how much we value life itself, for all its wonder and thrill and beauty and satisfaction.

Our only answer to sorrow is to live. To live looking backward, remembering the ones we have lost, but also moving forward, with anticipation and excitement.


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And to pass on those feelings of hope and possibility through acts of kindness, generosity, and compassion. Jun 19, Susan rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: From the first chapter with the author's description of a day spent on a bench by the sea reading Bram Stoke's "Dracula", ultimately finishing the last of its' pages in her hotel room that night, I was totally caught up in her story.

After Nina Sankovitch's beloved older sister Anne-Marie dies of cancer at age 46, Nina spends the next three years cramming as much as possible into her days, not just to escape the pain of lo "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair" is a book for people who love to read. After Nina Sankovitch's beloved older sister Anne-Marie dies of cancer at age 46, Nina spends the next three years cramming as much as possible into her days, not just to escape the pain of losing her sister but also to try and live life "double" - for her sister and all that she missed as well as for herself.

Exhausted, with grief unabated, Nina decides to use the love of books that she shared with Anne-Marie as an "escape back to life".. She decides to read a book a day for a year. She started a web site titled "Read All Day", whose motto is "Great good comes from reading great books".

What lover of books couldn't identify with that? And so Nina begins her year on her own 46th birthday, not looking to assuage her grief but as she puts it "hoping for answers Delving into not only the books she read, but also her memories of her family, specifically her sister. The author's love of the written word is evident in her finely chosen, almost poetic prose.

Her "year of magical reading" is itself a magical read. In the author's honor, I read it all in one day. Apr 21, Judy rated it really liked it Recommends it for: All three are worthy of experience Contrary to the dust jacket, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading is not strictly a book about a year's worth of reading.

Actually, it is a remarkably candid portrait of the author's quest to heal and obtain balance in her life after her sister's death. She does this through reading a book a day for one year and chronicling the healing she receives from many of the books. Woven in the story, are reminisces of her father's WWII experience which lends color to Sankovitch's journey.

Accentuating my journey through this book, was a good GR friend, Mikki, who read along with me. A time of sharing of our own life stories ensued which doubled an already positive reading experience. Mikki's insights and pointing out of quotes that I had somehow missed ensured this will be one of the best books I read this year! View all 18 comments. Dec 04, Caro M. Alas, this book didn't work for me, because the subject of it was completely overpowered by author's ego and it was almost unbearable to me.

And since I picked it for my reading challenge I just couldn't drop it. So, while it's not a bad book - it's well written and intellectual, and very interesting sometimes, I couldn't relate with author and her attitude towards life and everything in general. So 2,5 stars, and call me bitchy.

View all 10 comments. Feb 10, Kate Sheehan rated it it was amazing. You may get your car washed just so you can sit in the waiting room for 7 minutes and get back to this story. You may take it everywhere with you for a couple of days. It will end much too soon that way. Nina was an acquaintance in high school and has become a friend 30 years later via social media. I don't believe, however, that we are close enough that our relationship influences my fe A warning: I don't believe, however, that we are close enough that our relationship influences my feelings about her book.

It just means I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. In fact I found Nina again because I heard she was in the process of reading a book every day for a year. Like probably everyone who learned about what she was doing my first thought was "how? Reading was her work for a year. What a great job.

Her project inspired me to read more myself. I couldn't do a book a day but I could aim for a book a week, and that's what I did. I read 52 books in , all because of Nina. Not only did I read all of those books stealing the time from mindless t. And like Nina, it rewarded me beyond my expectations. Nina's book is not just about what it's like to read books in one year. And it's not just about the impetus of the project the untimely death of her sister. It's also about what reading means to those of us who love it. How it unites us and gives meaning to seemingly senseless events.

A Book A Day

How it sustains us and can fill in so many gaps in our lives for me it was growing up without siblings or a father, but we all have them. It's also about leading an examined life, appreciating everything that happens to us, and finding ways to turn down the noise and really think about something, anything. It is not pedantic or preachy; Nina never suggests we should quit our jobs and read all day.

And it's not just an annotated list of books although the list is there as an appendix. She weaves the books effortlessly into a narrative that takes us back and forth in time and even incorporates the fascinating stories of both of her parents without losing focus. I found It also reinforces what I've always believed: May 06, Maia B. From the title, you'd think this is a book about books. From the back, you'd think it's a grief memoir.

Since I was expecting a book about books, and not a grief memoir frankly, if you want to write your own memoir, go ahead. It's fine by me. But forcing your personal life on thousands of people is unnecessary and has always seemed to me rather self-centered , this book left me enormously disappointed. It's really a grief memoir that happens to mention books. For one thing, the author didn't mak From the title, you'd think this is a book about books.

For one thing, the author didn't make me laugh, cry, sigh, or wince. I don't think my expression changed once during this entire book - unless I was yawning. And I yawned a lot. The death of Sankovitch's sister was obviously traumatic, and I'm very sorry for her and her family. But a terrible experience is significantly deadened when you're a reading about people you've never met and b wondering where on earth the editors were; why didn't they notice how poor this writing is? This is not a book I was that interested in reading, and would certainly not have bought; luckily, I received it through Goodreads giveaways, and didn't have to.

But it was an enormous waste of time. For one thing, about a third of the way through the book Sankovitch breaks off her story to reminisce about the hard times her parents had during WWII. This was interesting; in fact, it was my favorite part of the book. It was the only part of the book that didn't bore me. But Sankovitch fails to connect it with the rest of her memoir; she's bragging about her family's troubles without giving a reason for putting it into her book.

She talks more about herself and her own relationship with her sister, Anne-Marie, than she does about Anne-Marie. She gives detailed descriptions of her home life, her personality quirks and traits, and a description of the eponymous "purple chair" which takes nearly a page and a half. She didn't hold my attention, nor did she keep me interested.


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There have been some good grief memoirs Meghan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye is a prime example which manage to make one family's grief universal. The characters are likable, the author is likable, the lesson learned is subtle and it makes sense. Sankovitch knocked me over with the force of her "lesson. This is not a book I'll read again. Every tome that she picks up is exhaustively detailed, along with any similarity that its heroine bears to her idealized late sister, Anne-Marie. But a lack of independent thought marks her narrative of the family life created in the US by her Catholic immigrant parents — an academic and a doctor from Belgium and Belarus , respectively — along with her parroting of their tales of suffering endured by European relatives during World War II, all without wonder at their conclusions.

Instead, the lawyer offers what sounds like a sermon. Quite a mash note. What did Anne-Marie do to earn such adulation? Her virtue seems to rest largely on having stopped the author, at age 12, from riding the wrong bus into a down-at-heel district of Chicago , one with bars, liquor stores, pawn shops, and decrepit apartment buildings. Four decades later, she never really reconsiders the drama of her statement or leaves off its adolescent credulity.

That makes her memoir not complex but rather sweet, profoundly sincere, and wholly devoted to its subject: Facing guilt or loss, some turn to old rites: In this age of the self, however, Sankovitch has adapted the tradition of shared mourning into a novel form of solace. Hers consists of curling up with a book a day — and then posting a review of it, the next day, online.

In fact, she developed a following for her blog, ReadAllDay. Calling into the void for reassurance is a universal trend. Through the magic of cyberspace, sometimes — often — someone replies. Susan Comninos is a journalist and poet in New York.