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The Poet of Tolstoy Park

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  397 ratings  ·  89 reviews
“The more you transform your life from the material to the spiritual domain, the less you become afraid of death.” Leo Tolstoy spoke these words, and they became Henry Stuart’s raison d’etre. The Poet of Tolstoy Park is the unforgettable novel based on the true story of Henry Stuart’s life, which was reclaimed from his doctor’s belief that he would not live another year.

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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Ballantine Books (first published 2005)
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Tony
Aug 30, 2013 Tony rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tony by: Mike Sullivan
Shelves: u-s-lit
This book was a personal recommendation from Goodreads legend Mike Sullivan, who champions Southern writers, both classic and recent. That's good enough for me - or even decent people - to give it a try.

This book, inspired by a true life, tells the fictionalized story of Henry Stuart, 67 and recently widowed, living in Idaho in 1925 when his doctor informs him he has advanced, but non-contagious tuberculosis, and has about a year to live. Henry is a mystical sort, soon to become eccentric. Dista
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Carolyn
I felt as if I were reading a true story of Henry, his family and his friends. Sonny Brewer did a wonderful job bringing Henry alive again. I visited the little round hut Henry made and I could almost see him working to build it. I so appreciate that it has been kept and made open to the public, but also a shame that it is surrounded by buildings. It would have been nice if the preservationists could have saved some of the land to go with the hut. After visiting the little round building I was s ...more
Mary
I'll rewrite the review once I re-read this book. However, I find Sonny Brewer, new on the author scene, to be totally engrossing. His descriptions are so natural and wonderful that you feel like you lived the book rather than just read it. I picked this book to read together with a friend this summer. Although she ended up hating it, it's another illustration of how different authors reach peaople in different ways. I liked this book so much, I put an order in for his second book "A Sound Like ...more
Baldwin_tina
I really loved this book! This is a novel written about a man who actually lived. I especially loved the reflections of the poet as he is contemplating how to live the last year the doctor has given him. I especially loved the quotes from poets, Tolstoy, other authors and the reprinting of the poems of the man himself. It is a book I have added to my permanent collection because I will read it over and over.
Nancy Chappell
A lovely, sweet read about an eccentric, thoughtful, kind man. Reminded me of some of the better parts of my ex husband. His love of Tolstoy and questioning of organized religion were appreciated. Based on a true character. Thanks, Sonny Brewer.
Vida
Sonny Brewer' first writing attempt was really hard for me to read. I found that the way he wrote the character, Henry Stuart, to be selfish and arrogant. Sort of like this line from the book, "We become obsessed with our own cleverness." Sonny Brewer is obsessed with his own cleverness and transposed that on to his protagonist. That he left his sons, I found unfathomable, that he didn't want live with them, a testament to his failure as a father. That he preferred the company of stranger I foun ...more
Jaci
Given a death sentence (TB, one year to live), Henry Stuart takes the freedom that imminent death gives, leaves his sons, and moves to Fairhope, Alabama, from Idaho, a better climate. He builds a circular, concrete house (still standing) which absorbs him, focuses on the later teachings of Tolstoy, and feels the common mortality which we all share.
p.244: "...learn to die in peace. That's what I think is important. My own lessons for that have come from how I treat other people, from what things
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Harper
I love the writing of sonny brewer and this novel, based on a true story, will cause you to want to spend time on the eastern shore of mobile bay. The communities on the eastern shore are home to a number of writer , many of whom are better known that sonny brewer. However, he owns the place. The book is the story of an eccentric man who came to the bay early in the twentieth century and built his home , , "Tolstoy park" by hand. Upon arriving, he gave his shoes away and never wore shoes again. ...more
Susan
One of my favorites. Bought it and sent it to my son to read. His favorite, too. Plan to stop by the town and visit the site, one day when traveling thru to Orange Beach.
Lynn Wilson
A lovely character study. Sort of a modern day Thoreau.
Bobbi Taniguchi
Henry believes in God. He doesn't go to church. He's preparing to die of TB. He leaves his two grown sons and his best friend (a preacher, in whose church he hasn't stepped since his wife died), and moves far away, takes a stint in solitude, realizes that he's gone too far over the line into himself, and yet it has been good medicine too.

Lots of good insight into what really matters, in a time where you could take the time to find it out from your own soul.

I liked his book fast. I've done that m
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Maloney
This was another book I heard bits and pieces of on WPR's "Chapter a Day" program, and the story did, and still does, intrigue me. However, the writing is fairly bland and slow to develop for nearly 3/4 of the book. That said, its a good story overall, and the final 1/4 redeems it from being a complete disappointment, although it could have been comdensed and therefore more effective as a short story/novella. The novel is littered with quotes from, and reflections on, Tolstoy, Thoreau, Emerson, ...more
Marilyn
It took me awhile to get into this book; the writing style is definitely more challenging than most novels I've read lately and I wanted to be sure to read slowly and stay focused so I wouldn't miss anything. Soon I was able to do that more easily and could read more pages at a sitting. It is NOT a book to rush through like so many best-sellers are.

This book is for thinking people, who are willing to accept that Henry Stuart, with long white beard and no shoes, is not a crazy man but a deep thin
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Holli
Brewer isn’t nearly the writer that Wendell Berry is but this novel reminds me a bit of Berry. Just as Berry tells the story of Harlan Hubbard, so Brewer gives witness to the life of Henry Stuart, both of whom live life at a depth that our fast paced society does not allow. (Even though both men lived in decades that were a lot slower than the present one). I was inspired by the way Stuart took a sabbatical from reading, writing, and thinking too much and devoted himself to the physical labor o ...more
Izajane
I love the poetic philosophy in this book. The circular themes: life, water, seasons, hurricanes, birds nests, hogans, weaving, etc. are certainly worth in-depth exploration, and a reader can contemplate some of the ideas in this book for many hours. However, the abrubt transitions and narrative stings leading to nowhere can be irritating.
Also discomfiting are some of the ideas regarding god and religion. Our Henry seems, at first, to be a solid independent sprit in his regard of omni-everythin
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Katherine
A good friend of mine suggested this book to me, her exact words "A very good..very good book"
I must say I totally agree with her.
I'm a bit of a poet myself, the poems included in the story were a real treat.
Ann Riall
I really liked this book. I bought it because it is about an historical figure who lived in Fairhope, Alabama, my father's home time. The main character, Henry Stuart, was a retired college professor from Idaho. He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and told he had only one year to live. He moved to Fairhope, a utopian colony, and built a beehive shaped house, thinking that working with his hands was the best way to live out his life. But, he didn't die, but lived for 20 more years. I remember ...more
Kris
I am glad I read this book before the movie comes out. It is excellent I am confident that Hollywood will gut and ruin it.
Anne
I truly enjoyed reading this inspiring book about someone who never gave up and didn't feel compelled to tell anyone else his woes. My book club enjoyed a road trip to visit his round house and that made the book even better.
Rita
I was in a bookstore where Mr. Brewer was signing his books. After a brief conversation with him, I decided to purchase his book. I put it on my bookshelf and totally forgot about it. Then one day, while perusing my bookshelf, I decided to read this book. I am so glad I did! What a beautifully written book. This has become one of my all-time favorite books.
Jenny
Another odd one for me. Very thoughtfully written and researched--story based on a man who spent the last years of his life on 10 acres in coastal Alabama, far away from his 'home' in Idaho. Carefully presented philosophical meanderings on faith, family, death, poetry, and Tolstoy! Although not much like the last book I read (The Elegance of the Hedgehog), this one also has convinced me it is way past time for me to read Anna Karenina.
Patricia
This book is a bit too full of itself for my taste, but I don't know if that is the fault of the writing, the subject, or the philosophy of the main character. Whichever, I found it overbearing and often irritating, but obviously not so much so that I abandoned it. I love Tolstoy's writing, but I'm also irritated by the mysticism that overcame his life at the end, so perhaps I should have known better than to try this book.
Rose
I thoroughly enjoyed Henry's end of life story; so glad it lasted 20 years past the one year he was given on diagnosis with consumption. He lived quietly and true to himself in the round house he built on his ten acres in Alabama. His inner and outer journeys fascinated. I would love to have met the man on whose life this story is based. He proved that getting old does not mean winding down.
Ann Baxter
This was a poignant story of what one man goes through on his way to dying. In this case, he discovered it was more a study of how to live, so that when you die you feel as though you have made a difference. Henry Stewart didn’t intend to make the impact into other’s lives that he did. But his simple choices (many that I did not understand) set him apart as not only an oddity, but a beloved member of the community.
Rob Jackson
A real treat and a glimpse into Henry George, a proponent of the "single tax" system in economics. Leo Tolstoy, a fan of George and his work was the framework of this book. A story of a simple man with a clear path of how to die was in fact based on a true story in Fairhope, Alabama where the author still resides. I do recommend this book and I should mention I, too, reside from small town, Alabama.
Shannon
This book was given to me as a Christmas present and touted as the givers favorite book. I couldn't put it down. It may be the best book I have ever read. ?? Maybe I just read it at the right time in my life. All I can say is,"Read it!"
Bayneeta
I had to read this for a book discussion and didn't think I was going to like it, but it grew on me. Fiction based on a true story--in 1925 Idaho a 67-year-old man is told he has a year to live. He moves to Alabama and single-handedly builds a small round cottage from bricks he makes himself. Then he lives another 20 years or so. Slow moving and philosophical; not generally my kind of book.
Renee
This book is an example of why I love good reads. I would probably not have found it if I had not read one of my connections review. This is a slow meandering book that is full of philosophy and provoking thoughts. I really enjoyed it even though it is not my typical book. I actually was dreading trying to read it for fear it would be too slow, but in the end I could not put it down.
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Sonny Brewer is the author of four novels, including The Poet of Tolstory Park and The Widow and the Tree. He edited the anthology series Stories from the Blue Moon Café and most recently, Don't Quit Your Day Job - Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs they Quit published by MP Publishing in 2010.
More about Sonny Brewer...
The Widow and the Tree Cormac A Sound Like Thunder Don't Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe: Anthology of Southern Writers

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