The Poet of Tolstoy Park

ISBN: 034547631X
ISBN 13: 9780345476319
By: Sonny Brewer

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About this book

“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.Henry responds to the news by slogging home barefoot in the rain. It’s 1925. The place: Canyon County, Idaho. Henry is sixty-seven, a retired professor and a widower who has been told a warmer climate would make the end more tolerable. San Diego would be a good choice. Instead, Henry chose Fairhope, Alabama, a town with utopian ideals and a haven for strong-minded individualists. Upton Sinclair, Sherwood Anderson, and Clarence Darrow were among its inhabitants. Henry bought his own ten acres of piney woods outside Fairhope. Before dying, underscored by the writings of his beloved Tolstoy, Henry could begin to “perfect the soul awarded him” and rest in the faith that he, and all people, would succeed, “even if it took eons.” Human existence, Henry believed, continues in a perfect circle unmarred by flaws of personality, irrespective of blood and possessions and rank, and separate from organized religion. In Alabama, until his final breath, he would chase these high ideas.But first, Henry had to answer up for leaving Idaho. Henry’s dearest friend and intellectual sparring partner, Pastor Will Webb, and Henry’s two adult sons, Thomas and Harvey, were baffled and angry that he would abandon them and move to the Deep South, living in a barn there while he built a round house of handmade concrete blocks. His new neighbors were perplexed by his eccentric behavior as well. On the coldest day of winter he was barefoot, a philosopher and poet with ideas and words to share with anyone who would listen. And, mysteriously, his “last few months” became years. He had gone looking for a place to learn lessons in dying, and, studiously advanced to claim a vigorous new life.The Poet of Tolstoy Park is a moving and irresistible story, a guidebook of the mind and spirit that lays hold of the heart. Henry Stuart points the way through life’s puzzles for all of us, becoming in this timeless tale a character of such dimension that he seems more alive now than ever.From the Hardcover edition.

Reader's Thoughts

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 I give value, but mostly from understanding that in every instance fear is of my own making."Very engaging, written by an independent bookstore owner in Fairhope.

Carolyn Jourdan

This book contains the most wonderful story about a man who was dying and how he chose to live out his last days. It's quite a bit more upbeat than it might sound from that description. Sonny clearly loves the story and the area and his love shines through the whole thing, so much so that you'll love it all, too.

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.

Leann

this is the best single book I've read all year---Fairhope, AL author Sonny Brewer, who is also Rick Bragg's editor, and owner of Over the Transom bookstore, is one helluva writer and brings to life the legendary hermit of Fairhope, who lived his final days in the eccentric artist enclave on Mobile Bay. full of poetic philosophy about life, love, death and illness. Highly recommended.

Ross Stocks

Meh. For most of the novel it was like reading an interminable college English Comp 101 descriptive paper assignment. It wasn't bad, but neither was it great.

Marcus

A stunning book that my 75 year old father gave me on my 51st birthday. Novel rich in content, context, history, spirit that I will read and re read again and again.Completely unexpected. While set in the 1920's it is a journey we will all be taking someday. And it will be up to each of us to decide how we want to ...

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.

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 of building his house. I also liked Chapters 31 and following that deal with his healing. Actually, his healing begins in his solitude and work and climaxes in the hurricane, and his turning toward his community. A 3-pronged approach to healing. I am glad to know of Henry Stuart.Book Description“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.Henry responds to the news by slogging home barefoot in the rain. It’s 1925. The place: Canyon County, Idaho. Henry is sixty-seven, a retired professor and a widower who has been told a warmer climate would make the end more tolerable. San Diego would be a good choice. Instead, Henry chose Fairhope, Alabama, a town with utopian ideals and a haven for strong-minded individualists. Upton Sinclair, Sherwood Anderson, and Clarence Darrow were among its inhabitants. Henry bought his own ten acres of piney woods outside Fairhope. Before dying, underscored by the writings of his beloved Tolstoy, Henry could begin to “perfect the soul awarded him” and rest in the faith that he, and all people, would succeed, “even if it took eons.” Human existence, Henry believed, continues in a perfect circle unmarred by flaws of personality, irrespective of blood and possessions and rank, and separate from organized religion. In Alabama, until his final breath, he would chase these high ideas.But first, Henry had to answer up for leaving Idaho. Henry’s dearest friend and intellectual sparring partner, Pastor Will Webb, and Henry’s two adult sons, Thomas and Harvey, were baffled and angry that he would abandon them and move to the Deep South, living in a barn there while he built a round house of handmade concrete blocks. His new neighbors were perplexed by his eccentric behavior as well. On the coldest day of winter he was barefoot, a philosopher and poet with ideas and words to share with anyone who would listen. And, mysteriously, his “last few months” became years. He had gone looking for a place to learn lessons in dying, and, studiously advanced to claim a vigorous new life.The Poet of Tolstoy Park is a moving and irresistible story, a guidebook of the mind and spirit that lays hold of the heart. Henry Stuart points the way through life’s puzzles for all of us, becoming in this timeless tale a character of such dimension that he seems more alive now than ever.

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!"

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.

Anne-Marie

This was a very grown up book and it took me a long time to finish. Tolstoy wasn't a page-turner . . . it's like when I try to read a "classic" piece of literature, I don't find myself really enjoying it all that much while I'm doing it but I'm always glad I did when I am done.

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.

Cindee

Couldn't do it. Could not endure this book. I got it in audio. Rick Bragg does the narration in a dull monotone. The engineering of the recording is terrible. He sounds like he's talking from the bottom of a well. I gave up on it fairly quickly.

Mark Pearce

This is a quietly written book that gets inside you. Sonny has a great writing style that captivated me and inspired me to visit Henry Stewarts home in Fairhope, Alabama. (A long trip from the Isle of Man but worth the detour). Henry was a stubborn Englishman which appealed to me.It is a fascinating story based on fact which lifts the spirits. Really enjoyed the book.

Lynn Wilson

A lovely character study. Sort of a modern day Thoreau.

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