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Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

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  • Posted June 13, 2011

    A remarkable first book.

    Don't be deterred by the descriptions of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair as a book about grieving. It is, indeed, Nina Sankovich's memoir of coming to terms with her sister's untimely death through reading. But it is much more a book about hope and the ever-amazing power our nature to return us from dark places. It's about getting to a point where remembering a life is no longer just excrutiating but joyful, the way it should be. I think it's also about learning to live with both the grief and the joy and understanding that they go together. As someone who has filled many empty places in my life with books, I automatically understood Sankovich's turning to reading for solace and understanding and maybe just as way to get through each painful day early on. But I believe that anyone who has experienced loss will enjoy the book, whether they follow the same path as the author or not. In fact, few of us will do exactly as Sankovich does and read 365 books in a year. It's her example of finding her own way through a tough time that is the lesson.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2011

    Reading from the Heart: A Book-lover's Journey from Grief to Joy

    Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is a memoir of hope, and also a highly readable and fascinating book. Lifelong book lover Nina Sankovitch read a book every day for a year -- and wrote insightful reviews of each. Her project was her personally crafted therapy to overcome the devastating grief that engulfed her when her sister Anne Marie died suddenly of cancer.
    While most people would look to non-fiction self-help books about death/dying in their search for answers and ways to cope and overcome their grief, Sankovitch took the more difficult path; she read great fiction, novels, short stories -- some intense, as well as some more distracting books -- in search of her own release from the guilt and pain that trapped her in the aftermath of her sister's death. Rather than provide clear answers, the books prompted Sankovitch to delve deeper into herself, as well as into the characters; they helped her constructively deal with her own personal grief and ultimately enabled her to find the will to move joyfully forward once again.
    Book lovers will adore this book, but even for a casual reader, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair will resonate because the story of Sankovitch's grief and how she came to terms with it is something universally relatable. The simple gift of a great book's lessons is the most precious to Sankovitch, and sharing what she has learned during her yearlong project is her gift to fellow readers.
    Masterfully woven into her daily life of laundry and kids' birthdays, reflections of time spent with her intellectual and fellow-book-loving sister, recollections of childhood memories and parents' histories, come the books' meaningful lessons she's uncovered during her year of reading. Quotes at the beginning of each chapter from some of the books highlight meaningful themes in her reading and provide a context for the chapter contents. Sankovitch loves to read, but more than that, she must read; it is an addiction that is positive, one that she finds motivating, meaningful, and in the case of her project, freeing. Sharing her experiences via Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is, for her, a gift to other readers so they too may glean from her experiences and be inspired to read and gain understanding and knowledge from great books and their characters.
    Sankovitch tells the story not only of how she managed to read and review a book a day (dirtier house, lots of late nights) but also tells her family story as the youngest of three daughters of immigrant parents growing up in suburban Chicago; as a college foreign exchange student; as an accomplished professional in New York City; and as a wife and mother of 4 boys living on the east coast. With tales and reflections that span from her father's own tragic legacy in war-torn Europe to her sons' birthdays in their Connecticut home, Sankovitch exposes her readers to the emotions and thoughts she experienced during her reading project. Yes, there is sadness here, but there is also learning, growing, humor, love, and joyful emergence from the depths of sadness and guilty grief as Sankovitch tries to come to terms with the fact that she has been spared and granted a wonderful life while her sister was abruptly denied her own full life in a painful and unfair death.
    Tolstoy and the Purple Chair highlights ideas from various books Sankovitch read during her yearlong project and relates them to her emotions and struggles while she groped her way back to her previous

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2011


    An amazing first memoir of this author's personal journey of learning to live again after the tremendous loss of a beloved sister by opening a new book, everyday for a year, and capturing its essence in her daily reviews. Starting with a promise and a pledge begins the Holy Grail of this bright and colorful 365 days of magical reading. You curl up with Nina in her purple chair as she explores the layers of her own fascinating history while entwining it with her well chosen novels; ("only books I want to read") as she seeks her truth and the human experience with the curiosity of a cat for deeper meanings and delightful reads she shares on her web-site everyday. As Nina's calendar of days and books grow you will start cheering her on as you see her love of literature slowly change her unadulterated sadness, as a caterpillar to butterfly, her days of oneness become numbered and her love and belief in the human experience voiced through the written word brings forth a true and lasting imprint on us all. This book is one you will hold close. It is an encyclopedia of beautiful novels Nina reviewed that you will want to go back to again and again. It is a true story of a free-spirited woman that wasn't afraid to find her own voice and with a scent of rosemary show how love will always survive. Lovely, sincere and true, enjoy this feast with Nina of good reads and turning your own page on the excitement of the written word.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    you must check this out -- great read

    I recommended it to my book discussion group and the 365 book list at the end of the book lead to many more books to read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2014


    This is one of my favorite books. Great story line and I wasnt very pleasantly suprised that its true; I didnt pick up on that when I bought it. Awesome for book lovers or anyone questioning their purpose after losing someone. Definitely recommend!

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  • Posted July 26, 2011

    Highly recommended

    Anyone who love books...and if you have a NOOK you love books....this is a must-read.

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    Posted June 16, 2011

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    Posted October 16, 2012

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    Posted June 14, 2011

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