The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer
A Novel

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“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.

About Sonny Brewer

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SONNY BREWER owns Over the Transom Bookshop in Fairhope and is board chairman of the nonprofit Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts. He is the former editor in chief of Mobile Bay Monthly; he also published and edited Eastern Shore Quarterly magazine, edited Red Bluff Review,"" and was founding associate editor of the weekly West Alabama Gazette. Brewer is the editor of the acclaimed annual three-volume anthology of Southern writing, Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe. "From the Hardcover edition.
Published March 1, 2005 by Ballantine Books. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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He’s convinced he can overcome fear of death by moving from a material to a spiritual plane, while the challenge of manual work, done by himself alone, will be “soul-perfecting.” In fact, he’s a set of quirks and ideals who stops just short of being a fully realized fictional character.

Mar 01 2005 | Read Full Review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park: A N...

Publishers Weekly

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(Mar.) Forecast: Book world support for Brewer—who owns Over the Transom Bookshop in Fairhope, Ala., and is the editor of the annual anthology of Southern writing, Stories from the Blue Moon Café—will be strong, as evidenced by blurbs from Pat Conroy, Robert Morgan, Rick Bragg and Winston Groom.

Feb 14 2005 | Read Full Review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park: A N...

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