Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

When Nina Sankovitch's older sister, Anne-Marie, died suddenly at age 46, Nina was bereft: "I began a race the day Anne-Marie died, a race away from death…away from loss and confusion and despair." She had survivor guilt and was afraid of living a life not worth the living, so threw herself into her family, coaching soccer, leading a PTA group; she started a fitness regime; she made herself available to everyone from her youngest son to her father. After three years, she realized that she couldn't outrun sorrow and, as her 46th birthday approached, she began thinking about what she and her sister had shared--Laughter. Words. Books. Thus she got an idea--using books as a way not to escape from life, but to escape into life. On her birthday, she began a plan to read one book a day for a year and to write a review of each. Which she did, and posted on her blog, Read All Day.

Sankovitch's eclectic reading list and unalloyed delight in reading are catnip for us. The books are interwoven with stories about her children, her husband, her cats, her parents, her sister Natasha and Anne-Marie's hospital room. In reading, she finds that words are a witness to life, they help her remember, and "remembrance is the bones around which a body of resilience built." Her prose can be elegant and lyrical--her description of a painting of a sunrise in a Barcelona museum is stunning. Some scenes are hilarious, others poignant. As Sankovitch finds books by Ernest Gaines or Dickens or John D. MacDonald or Connie Willis or Eudora Welty, she pens a testament to the value and the joy of reading, and the fun of discovery. --Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness

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