Saturday, February 6, 2010

Amelia Island Book Festival features Sonny Brewer


Festival Focus
A series of reviews of books to be featured at the Amelia Island Book Festival – 2010. Reviewers represent a broad spectrum of community readers and writers.

Author Sonny Brewer will be a featured author at the Festival, Feb. 12-13, 2010.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer
Reviewed by Attavia Facciolo

One would not expect to find a “Tolstoy Park” in the sleepy, southern town of Fairhope, Alabama; but it exists there, today, as a monument to its builder, Henry Stuart. Stuart, the inspirational hero of Sonny Brewer’s novel, The Poet of Tolstoy Park, lived, between 1925 and 1944, in the round house he build on a bluff overlooking Mobile Bay.

A few years ago, Brewer, a writer, editor, founder of the Fairhope Center for Writing Arts, and founder of Over the Transom Bookstore, became interested in Henry Stuart and his unusual house. His research into the Fairhope “character” led him to move, part-time, into the tiny house where he wrote Stuart’s story.

Henry Stuart was a 67-year-old retired professor and widower living in Canyon County, Idaho when he was told, by his doctor, that he probably would die within a couple of years, but that moving to a more temperate climate might extend his life. Henry researched locations and decided on Fairhope, AL versus Arizona. He gave away most of his possessions and set off for Fairhope against protests from his grown sons and his friends. Brewer discovered from Henry’s journals that, among the items he packed into the two valises he carried with him were “ a Russian language copy of Leo Tolstoy’s A Calendar of Wisdom and another thin volume of Tolstoy’s work, What Men Live By and What Shall it Profit a Man...... He also took a book of sonnets by Rainer Maria Rilke, 2 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, a set of suspenders, 4 handkerchiefs and 2 dark woolen vests, a large sweater knitted for him by his wife Molly, a small rug he had knitted for her, and a journal.” By the time Henry reached his destination, he had given away his boots, his hat and his coat. He was ready to begin the rest of his life.

Stuart lived in the round house, of his own design and construction, for nearly another 20 years. He named the house and surrounding property Tolstoy Park. Although he was called by some a “hermit,” “some kiney crazy old poet,” and a “sideshow,” according to the guest books he kept, he was visited by over 1,100 people, including multiple visits by Clarence Darrow.

Poet is most definitely an engaging and inspiring read. Sonny Brewer’s prose is like Henry Stuart’s life in Tolstoy Park – elegant in its simplicity.
Best selling author, Pat Conroy calls “The Poet of Tolstoy Park “...one of those unique and wonderful books that sings a hymn of praise to the philosophical and spiritual part of daily life.”

Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Bragg says: “Sonny Brewer writes the way people think and talk, if, of course, those people are poets. The language in the novel is lovely where it needs to be and gristle-tough where it is called for...I loved this book because I love to read, and because I love to write, and I envy the skill in this as much as I loved the story that the writer’s skill embraces.”

Other books by Sonny Brewer include A Sound like Thunder, Cormac–The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing, and Brewer’s latest, The Widow and the Tree.

The reviewer, Attavia Facciolo has been a resident of Nassau County since 2002, when she and husband, Jim, came here from Jacksonville. Attavia worked in advertising as a media specialist for over 20 years. She was the Volunteer Coordinator for The Salvation Army-Northeast Florida from 1996 to 1999. From 2002 to 2008, she worked as a legal assistant at Hayden & Facciolo, P.A. She has been a director on the board of the Amelia Island Book Festival since 2007. As an advocate for education and literacy, Attavia volunteers as a tutor for Communities-in-Schools. She enjoys the many cultural and historical aspects of this community, and tries to participate whenever possible.

For information about the festival go to: http://www.ameliaisandbookfestival.com/
or contact Executive Director - Dickie Anderson at www. dickie.anderson@gmail.com

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