Monday, June 20, 2011

TOLSTOY AND THE PURPLE CHAIR: A REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY ENDED
TOLSTOY AND THE 
PURPLE CHAIR
BY NINA SANKOVITCH

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Nina Sankovitch has always been a reader. As a child, she discovered that a trip to the local bookmobile with her sisters was more exhilarating than a ride at the carnival. Books were the glue that held her immigrant family together. When Nina's eldest sister died at the age of forty-six, Nina turned to books for comfort, escape, and introspection. In her beloved purple chair, she rediscovered the magic of such writers as Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Leo Tolstoy. Through the connections Nina made with books and authors (and even other readers), her life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways. Reading, it turns out, can be the ultimate therapy.
 
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair also tells the story of the Sankovitch family: Nina's father, who barely escaped death in Belarus during World War II; her four rambunctious children, who offer up their own book recommendations while helping out with the cooking and cleaning; and Anne-Marie, her oldest sister and idol, with whom Nina shared the pleasure of books, even in her last moments of life. In our lightning-paced culture that encourages us to seek more, bigger, and better things, Nina's daring journey shows how we can deepen the quality of our everyday lives—if we only find the time.

PRAISE FOR TOLSTOY AND THE PURPLE CHAIR:
“What Sankovitch has accomplished in her first book is not only to celebrate the transformational, even healing, powers of reading, but to give the reader a feeling of reading those books as well, through the eyes of an astute reader.” 
— Kirkus Review

“Anyone who has ever sought refuge in literature will identify with Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.”
— O, The Oprah Magazine 
 “[An] entertaining bibliophile’s dream…Sankovitch’s memoir speaks to the power that books can have over our daily lives. Sankovitch champions the act of reading not as an indulgence but as a necessity, and will make the perfect gift from one bookworm to another.”— Publishers Weekly
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
The youngest of three girls, Nina Sankovitch was born in Evanston, Illinois, to immigrant parents. In 2008, Nina launched ReadAllDay.org, and at the end of her year of reading, she was profiled in the New York Times. She continues to review books on ReadAllDay.org and for the Huffington Post. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and four sons. You can find out more about this author by visiting her website HERE. Photo by Douglas Healey  

MY REVIEW:
If you have read a bit about Nina Sankovitch’s TOLSTOY AND THE PURPLE CHAIR, then you know the basic story. This is Nina’s memoir as she tells of the loss of her older sister, Anne-Marie, who died after a very brief battle with cancer. One of three daughters of immigrants from Belarus, Nina weaves her story around books. Following Anne-Marie’s death, Nina has a very difficult time dealing with losing her sister. After all, Anne-Marie was the beauty of the family, while younger Natasha was the good girl, and Nina was the “pudgy, funny one”. She found it very hard to be funny when she ached so over her loss. Anne-Marie was Nina’s idol and they shared a special bond just as they shared books. The entire family were lovers of books and grew up reading. Books are a staple in their lives and in fact, what Nina would bring to Anne-Marie while she was in bed and the hospital, knowing deep down she might never get to finish all the books in that TBR (To Be Read) pile. Nina decides after three years of unimaginable grief she just can’t get a handle on, that she is going to allow herself to slow down and in honor or her sister’s memory, read a book each day and even post a review on her website, for an entire year.

That about tells the premise but not about the little gem that is TOLSTOY AND THE PURPLE CHAIR. I review this as a lover of books which I say up front so you realize my opinion may be slightly prejudiced. However, Nina Sankovitch had me by page 11 when she wrote:

“When I was just three years old, the three of us would walk together to the library bookmobile. It stopped at a corner just a few blocks away from our house. In FAHRENHEIR 451, Ray Bradbury describes book smelling ‘like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land.’ For me, books do have a spicy smell, but it is a local spice, soothing and familiar. It is the smell of the bookmobile, a mixture of musty pages and warm bodies.”

Sankovitch goes on to describe the books for children being on the lower shelves and for adults up high and how they treasured those books. This brought me back to being an 8-year-old, allowed to walk the two blocks (this was in my small town in days when children could actually be safe doing this alone) to the Cornelia Young Library, a beachside branch of our public library. Housed in an old mansion, all I remember was tugging on the heavy wooden doors with the big brass handle and entering a somewhat dim room with a large librarian’s station in front of you and the children’s books were to the right. And from the moment I pulled that door open, this pudgy little girl was home. Complete with my own set of smells that I can remember until today, but not spicy. Rather a hint of mahogany mixed with the aroma of leather bound books and somewhat musty pages. To me, it was better than Mom’s blueberry pie! I could pick up to three books and when finished, return them for more. It is where I first met the likes of Bert and Nan Bobbsey, Nancy Drew, and a bit later the daring Trixie Belden. But when I found out LITTLE WOMEN was checked out, week after week, and I proceeded home one day in tears over it, my mother as always saved the day and presented me with her own copy! Thus, I just knew I would grow up to be a writer like Jo, but would always mourn Bethie each time I read it!

So as Nina Sankovitch writes about the books in her “year of magical reading”, she also writes her memoir. Her decision to read a book a day, (I am so jealous) did have rules attached. Rules which were:

“no author could be read more than once; I couldn’t reread any books I’d already read; I had to write about every book I read. I would read new books and new authors, and read old books by favorite writers. I wouldn’t read War and Peace, but I could read Tolstoy’s last noel, The Forged Coupon. The books would be ones I would have shared with Anne-Marie if I could have, ones we would have talked about, argued over, and some we would have agreed upon.”
 

Although Nina has a rough time starting and adjusting to this rigid schedule, she soon gets into a groove. She has four wonderful boys and a husband who totally understand and help her with this. In fact, the boys even recommend books for her to read. Nina sets aside a special place before she starts so that she has no excuses and here we find the purple chair. This is a chair that her husband brought home in white before their children were born only to be reminded how the white, nubby, flowered material would be dirty before you knew it and of course, especially raising 4 boys, it was. However, after many spills and slips, they had dyed the chair a deep purple color and took care of their cat problem. Their cat liked to “spray” the chair to make it his own and it did reek, but after the continual spraying of her own, Nina won the battle and the chair was fine. And so it became the place where she curled up most all of the time to read.

Every one of the 365 books are not discussed but are indeed listed in the back of the book. Each chapter deals with a certain theme and the books she discusses in that chapter are part of that theme. The theme also relates to an aspect of Nina’s life and are written so well, that her words almost sing. She makes you laugh and cry and I found myself agreeing with her on many books as well as jotting down titles to now add to my TBR list. The past, present, and future of all aspects of Nina’s life, from children to Anne-Marie are covered in such a way that it is the kind of book you wish you had read slowly or will for sure read again!

The end of the book has Nina discussing a little of what she learned especially about grieving. She also writes that for her, the “cure” was the reading but for someone else it might be knitting, or cooking, or something else to pour yourself into in order to see what comes back out. She writes: 

“We all need a space to just let things be, a place to remember who we are and what is important to us, an interval of time that allows the happiness and joy of living back into our consciousness…….my body and soul are healed, but I will never leave the purple chair for long. So many books waiting to be read, so much happiness to be found, so much wonder to be revealed.” Amen, Nina Sankovitch, I totally agree!

GIVEAWAY

THANKS TO MARK AND MY WONDERFUL 
FRIENDS AT HARPER COLLINS, I HAVE
3 COPIES OF THIS BOOK TO GIVE AWAY
 
--U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY
--NO P. O. BOXES
---INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
IN CASE YOU WIN!
--ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SEPARATE TO
 

COUNT AS MORE THAN ONE!

HOW TO ENTER:

+1 ENTRY: COMMENT ON WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE DESCRIPTION AND REVIEW OF TOLSTOY AND THE PURPLE CHAIR AND WHY YOU WANT TO WIN THIS BOOK

+1 MORE ENTRY: BLOG AND/OR TWEET ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY AND COME BACK HERE AND LEAVE ME YOUR LINK

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON SOMETHING YOU FOUND INTERESTING ON NINA SANKOVITCH'S WEBSITE BY SEARCHING HER WEBSITE HERE

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON ONE WAY THAT YOU FOLLOW MY BLOG. IF YOU FOLLOW MORE THAN ONE WAY, YOU CAN GIVE THEM ALL AS LONG AS THE COMMENTS ARE SEPARATE TO COUNT FOR THE GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY ENDS AT
6 PM, EST, JULY 5
 GOOD LUCK!

106 comments:

debbie said...

Talk about a book lover's book. I can really relate to this one, I taught myself to read by the time I was barely 3, and have never stopped. I can see where turning to books would help her with her grief. I would really like to read this one.
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

debbie said...

I am a email subscriber.
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debbie said...

On her website, that list of books she read was really impressive. That was really some goal, a book plus a review every single day. Wow.
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

Margie said...

This sounds like a fantastic book for any book lover. It also sounds like a good view of an immigrant family. I love your rememberance of your childhood library, Karen.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

I like this comment from the author's website:
"Reading is a joy, and that in the joy so many rewards can be found."
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bermudaonion said...

I remember when Nina was reading a book a day, and I thought her project sounded fascinating. I'm thrilled to see she wrote a book about it and would love a chance to win. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

bermudaonion said...

I subscribe in Google Reader. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Tore said...

I like it because it talks about a book lover and I love books too. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read the book. Tore923@aol.com

petite said...

A book lover's book is something special and unique. This would be memorable and precious. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

petite said...

I am a follower. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

petite said...

What a wonderful list of books that she has read and this is to be commended. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

Bethie said...

I love the idea of reading as therapy. I always say I could not function without my reading time.

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Bethie said...

I follow on GFC

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traveler said...

Being an avid reader this book appeals to me greatly. Thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

traveler said...

I am an e-mail subscriber. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

traveler said...

This fascinating individual, her life and her goal was wonderful. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Colleen Turner said...

Wow, this sounds fascinating! It sounds like a dream to be able to devout a year of your life to reading and reviewing a book a day! I can see how this could be cathartic for an avid reader and would have helped the author deal with her sister's death. I cannot wait to read it!
candc320@gmail.com

Colleen Turner said...

I learned on the author's website that "my earliest memories are of heading off to the local book mobile with my sisters Anne-Marie and Natasha to pick out our books for the week". What a great memory to have! I have a similar early memory of going each week over the summer to pick out books at the local library. They would also have reading groups which I enjoyed going to. It really helped foster the love of reading I have to this day.
candc320@gmail.com

Colleen Turner said...

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Pamela Keener said...

I have also been a reader since way back thanks to my mother. I would love to win this giveaway.
Love & Hugs,
Pam
pk4290(at)comcast(dot)net

Pamela Keener said...

I follow your blog via GFC
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Connie said...

Hi! The love of reading books within a family is what attracts me to this book. Thank you for a wonderful giveaway! :)

aliasgirl1976@yahoo.com

Connie said...

I am a GFC follower. :)

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Anonymous said...

I would love to win this.
gardnerad@juno.com

holdenj said...

This looks like a great memoir! I love that the kid books were on the lower shelves.
JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

holdenj said...

I love Nina's website and bookmarked it to check out again later...would love to read more of her reviews and such. I loved her rules for reading all day! Especially the two--

Read instead of vacuuming.
Read while vacuuming.

Anything to avoid housework!
JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

holdenj said...

I am a GFC follower.
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I subscribe via RSS feed.
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ann said...

Books books books read them when your young , you learn from them , you go to another place while reading them. Its amazing how many books she read.


amhengstATverizonDOTnet

ann said...

I follow by email to

ann said...

She is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Its amazing that she read and did reviews on 365 books!

Laura said...

Ohh Pick me! Pick me! I really want this one.
I am a follower.
Laura
laura.leahj@gmail dot com

Carol N Wong said...

Don't enter me because I have already read the book. I just want to say the part in the bookmobile brought back memories for me. For grade school, I went to P.S. 45, William Watson Woolen School. The original building didn't have a library so we had a bookmobile come once a week. I really loved that bookmoibile.

Carol Wong

P.S. I just checked on Google Maps and found out that my school building has been replaced. Glad that I took a picture of it back in the 1970S!

mamabunny13 said...

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bison61 said...

I love to read stories about World War II

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~Enamored Soul~ said...

This book is surely an unending feast for the devourer of books, or a lover of books like me. My mother ingrained the love of books into me, and my love affair has never ceased. And being an only child, with both parents working, books were really more like siblings/family than anything else...they were my strength to go on, and therefore I can completely relate to this author/novel. I'd love for a chance to read/win this book! :D


~Hira~
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~Enamored Soul~ said...

I tweeted the giveaway:

http://twitter.com/#!/inluvwithbookz/status/83633993240690688

~Hira~
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~Enamored Soul~ said...

I loved the "How You Can Read All Day" list on Nina Sankovitch's website.

~Hira~
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~Enamored Soul~ said...

I'm a GFC Follower.

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I'm a Facebook Fan.

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~Enamored Soul~ said...

I'm a confirmed email subscriber.

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I follow your RSS Feed via Google Reader.

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Jolee said...

Love the descriptions of her parents. joleehamlin [at] comcast [dot]net

Jolee said...

Enjoyed the Reading Guide on her website. joleehamlin [at] comcast [dot]net

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Becca said...

Any book about books and reading interests me. I like to hear about people who love books as much (or more) than I do. Books have been my solace too. I haven’t had a tragedy as big as Nina’s but when life gets hard, for me, books help.

rebecca.bradeen(at)verizon(dot)net

Becca said...

I follow with GFC.

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Becca said...

Blogged here:

http://completepoppycock.blogspot.com/2011/06/tolstoy-and-purple-chair.html

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Becca said...

I found the list of her 365 books very interesting, specifically how many I had never even heard of never mind read. (I’ve read five, only five, off that entire list.) And I think it’s great that she encourages people not to worry about reading new or popular books but finding something that interests you.

rebecca.bradeen(at)verizon(dot)net

Linda Kish said...

I am an email subscriber

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Linda Kish said...

I am an email subscriber

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I am a GFC follower

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Linda Kish said...

That's a lot of books. When my sister died, I could barely function. There's no way I could have attempted anything like that. I lived in a fog for 3 months where I didn't remember anything, just acted like a robot would.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Cozy in Texas said...

This sounds wonderful. I remember walking to the library at a very young age too. I always envied the librarian who spent all day with books.
Ann
cozyintexas@yahoo.com

LAMusing said...

As a book lover I would really love to read this! I may not have a purple chair, but I have many places to curl up and read :)
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Meredith said...

I'd like to read this because I agree with the main idea of the book--that reading's good therapy.

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