While I am in the midst of moving boxes from one state to another, I have a handful of fabulous fellow bloggers stopping by to share their moving books(es) ... books that they feel have moved them in one way or another. I am excited to introduce my first fellow blogger, Andi of Estella's Revenge. She is here today to talk about one specific book that she shared on her own blog back in 2011. Read on to find out a book that has moved her!
One of the most buzzed-about books about books to come along in a good while is Nina Sankovitch's memoir, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading. Three years after the death of her sister, Anne-Marie, Sankovitch decides to read one book every single day in order to slow down her life and deal with her grief instead of running from it.
Grief is a complicated thing. When I picked up Tolstoy and the Purple Chair it was for the pure rush of excitement of picking up a book about books. However, the grief component in this book came into focus for me when I found out that a good friend of mine from my undergraduate days had passed away. While we hadn't been in close contact in a good while, I still enjoyed keeping up with him on Facebook, the occasional exchange of a funny comment or a "How's life?" Even though we were removed from each other by miles and hectic lives, some little part of me was crushed to lose such a wonderful and influential friend. On top of that, he died a good while back, and I was just finding out. How the hell did I not KNOW?! For that, I am regretful.
When I was 18 and a freshman in college, I moved out of my mom's house and lived on the campus of Baylor University in a dorm with 600 freshman girls (ack!). I grew up in a small town of 1,200 in northeast Texas. I graduated with a class of 52. Baylor is made up of roughly 15,000 students and was slightly overwhelming.
On the whole, Baylor is a "privileged" environment. Lots of rich kids and upper-class families (celebrities' kids, a prince even). I was one of the students who came from a single-parent home and depended on scholarships and work-study to get through. I started my on-campus job as a Student Technology Specialist on my third day there, and Mike was the first person I met. The group of students with whom I shared the campus computer labs would become like a family to me for my two years at Baylor. Mike was one of my favorite people. At a Baptist college, and having led a small town existence to that point, I was not expecting the first friend I made to be an openly gay atheist with 10 piercings.
But my God, he was so special. He was outgoing, more than a little hyper, funny, and one of the smartest people I've ever met to this very day. He never met a stranger, he could learn a new language in six weeks flat, and he was always a character. He accompanied me to my freshman formal dance where we scandalized the crowd with our dancing, and when I got my first apartment he showed up to christen the place with a box of wine. I woke up in tears in the middle of the night because I couldn't believe he was gone and I didn't know.
Reading this book, I had the grief part covered. Of all the things Nina Sankovitch writes in her book -- and there are a great many wonderful things -- what I relate to most is the multi-faceted need she feels for books. She's looking for inspiration, insight, comfort, motivation, empathy. She's looking for authors she can relate to, who feel the same things, express them in ways she cannot. That's what made this book so moving.
Books allow me comfort and heightened insight, heightened experience. While I hadn't expected my own grief to sneak into my reading of this book, it most certainly did. While Mike and I did not have a bookish connection, we had a beautiful, fun, spirited friendship and this book allowed me to share some of the insight and solace Sankovitch experienced during her year of reading. Throughout my life, in the throes of personal tragedies and losses, I too turn to books with a deep need for some enlightenment. It was not at all painful to read Tolstoy and the Purple Chair but quite cathartic.
If you have an opportunity to try this book, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. For those who may be turned off by the subject of grief, I would still give it a go. There are a great many things to enjoy in this thoughtful examination of the reading life and the healing power therein.
Thank you so much Andi for sharing your story. I also tend to seek out books when I am dealing with personal tragedies and loss. I will be adding this very book to my list.