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The Poet of Tolstoy Park
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Group Reads: Moderator's Choice > Final Impressions: The Poet of Tolstoy Park: January 2018

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2463 comments Mod
Comments on this board are made with the assumption that readers have finished the book and may include spoilers.


message 2: by Lawyer, Moderator Emeritus "Lawyer Stevens" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Diane asked in initial impressions just who were historically accurate characters in The Poet of Tolstoy Park. Another question concerns the accuracy of events portrayed in the novel. The best source is the author, Sonny Brewer. The source is a fascinating interview with the owner of Lemuria Books in Jackson, Ms. It is here: https://www.bookbrowse.com/author_int... .


message 3: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
What a great article, thanks, Lawyer! It answered a lot of my questions. I was prompted to ask because in the book Henry died in the train going back to Idaho with his son, but Wikipedia tells me he died in Oregon several years later. I prefer the fiction, it seemed more appropriate.


message 4: by Sara (last edited Dec 30, 2017 12:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 930 comments Just finished and once again The Southern Literary Trail has introduced me to a book and an author I will never forget.

The article was a wonderful addition to my reading of the book. Thank you so much, Lawyer, for sharing it. It wouldn't be fiction if it all had to be true, so I am fine with whatever imaginings Mr. Brewer had...I also think the fictional end much more satisfying that seeing him going off to Oregon to spend two more years dying. I fell completely in love with Henry and I will now have to add Sonny Brewer to my "authors you just don't want to miss" list.


message 5: by Lawyer, Moderator Emeritus "Lawyer Stevens" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
The Hurricane referred to in The Poet of Tolstoy Park occurred. It became known as the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. It was first reported by ships in the Atlantic on September 11, 1926. It made its first landfall in Miami where the greatest loss of life and property damage occurred. It was a Category 4 on first landfall. It tracked into the Gulf of Mexico as it blew north. It made it's second landfall at Perdido Point in Alabama, wreaking havoc September 20, 21, 1926. The hurricane blasted the Florida panhandle to the Alabama Gulf Coast, striking Bay Minette, Fairhope, and Mobile. Because the storm slowed during its track over the Gulf northward, its second landfall stalled, battering the coast from Pensacola, Florida, to Mobile, Alabama. Sustained winds approximately 115 miles per hour and rain in excess of eighteen inches lasted approximately twenty-four hours. The total death toll from Miami to Mobile was 372. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1926_Mi... for the story.


message 6: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2463 comments Mod
I stayed up late last night and finished this. I really enjoyed Henry's mission to come to terms with death.

Thanks, Lawyer, for including the background information on Fairhope and Stuart's life.

Here is my review.


message 7: by Lawyer, Moderator Emeritus "Lawyer Stevens" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Tom wrote: "I stayed up late last night and finished this. I really enjoyed Henry's mission to come to terms with death.

Thanks, Lawyer, for including the background information on Fairhope and Stuart's life..."


Tom, your review was so good. I'm at a typical "to be continued" on mine. To read, to review? GRIN you're most welcome for the background information.


message 8: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2463 comments Mod
Lawyer wrote: "Tom, your review was so good. I'm at a typical "to be continued" on mine. To read, to review? GRIN you're most welcome for the background information. ."

I must admit that I found my reaction to the book somewhat disconcerting. I would have thought I was much too young to be intrigued by a book that deals with facing death with grace and dignity.


PirateSteve | 21 comments It's now been almost 10 days ago but I did manage to visit the hut (barefooted), finish reading the book and sign Henry's guestbook.
https://www.goodreads.com/photo/user/...
The experience turned out even better than I had thought it would.


message 10: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 930 comments What a marvelous thing to have done, Steve. I love the photo and it will give you another reason never to forget Henry or this book.


Janice (JG) | 113 comments I found this site with photographs of Henry and his house. I will return to comment more, but it's late. I also have some favorite quotes (there are so many!).

https://sites.google.com/site/tolstoy...

(Is it my imagination, or does Dave Letterman bear a striking resemblance to Henry now that he has his beard?)


message 12: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3823 comments Mod
What a cool picture, PirateSteve! I am inspired, next time we read a book set in or near Charleston, I'm going to do the same thing. And YES! to the David Letterman look alike.


PirateSteve | 21 comments Diane wrote: "What a cool picture, PirateSteve! I am inspired, next time we read a book set in or near Charleston, I'm going to do the same thing. And YES! to the David Letterman look alike."

On-site reading adventures ... we're gonna make it a thing!


Janice (JG) | 113 comments I was very pleased that this book had been chosen to read this month as a Moderator's Choice. I've had The Poet of Tolstoy Park in my TBR stack for a few years now, but never seemed to get around to reading it. This was my chance, and I couldn't be more pleased.

What I think I loved most were the many references to Henry's reading materials and resources. I, too, believe that a life can be formed from the wisdom of printed words and their authors, and certainly Brewer represented Henry's reliance on these authors. I'd just finished reading Rilke's Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God before I started this journey with Henry, and I was so happy to see the influence Rilke had on Henry's life, as well as Tolstoy. Speaking of Tolstoy, I've just ordered a copy of A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, because it was made clear to me... who could live without it? Kudos to Brewer for incorporating so many of Henry's favorites.

One of my favorite quotes, this time from Thoreau (through Henry, of course):
"In anger, truly the harm is to oneself, Henry believed, and our body's cells are like children who shrink at the argument of the parents. Thoreau said the body is the first student of the soul, and if the soul is stirred in anger, the body learns to throw tantrums."
And another:
"A man has only to save himself from himself, from his own fear. Fear is the only hell we face."
I was fascinated by Henry's references to Black Elk and his wisdom, as well as Henry's relationship with the Shoshone (?) tribes. Henry was a man of many resources, I think he also mentioned the Buddhists once or twice. I think Brewer did a wonderful job of finding Henry's truths and conveying them so elegantly. Brewer himself must be a very interesting and holistic man, to be able to walk in Henry's bare feet so well.

It was easy for me to relate to Henry because I am both a weaver (there was a time I'd even woven rugs for a little extra cash), and a vegetarian (I'm also adding The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod to my TBR stacks).

And probably my favorite lines are the last lines from Henry's Poem for Kate and Anna Pearl
And the Wave,
Water before he was born,
And water evermore,
Laughed a great roar, and rolled mightlily onward.



Carol | 17 comments Here is the review I posted. Thanks for suggesting it Lawyer.

I enjoyed reading this charming book, selected by Lawyer, a moderator of the group, On the Southern Literary trail. Sonny Brewer's writing is beautiful and I will definitely be reading more of his works. This is the true story of a man in the early 20th century who was given a year to live with tuberculosis. He decided to move from Idaho to Fairhope, Alabama as he heard the weather was good for his condition. They also lived by a single tax law in the community. He was an avid reader and fan of Tolstoy. Throughout the book he references poets, writers, scripture and quotes that give him meaning. He wishes to build a single room hut for his remaining time, and insists on building it without any help. He becomes a lovable, fixture in their small town. I enjoyed reading about all the people that came in and out of his life. But most of all, I enjoyed meeting him.


message 16: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 930 comments Nice review, Carol. I also appreciate Lawyer's sending this gem my way.


Carol | 17 comments Sara wrote: "Nice review, Carol. I also appreciate Lawyer's sending this gem my way."

Thanks! I'm not much of a reviewer. Writing is not my strength which is why I appreciate it so much in authors.


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