“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.
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|Title of eBook: The Poet of Tolstoy Park|
|Release Date: 03-01-2005|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Poet of Tolstoy Park
• ONE •
Henry walked out of the doctor’s office and the drumming rain that had begun to fall went straight through his thin white hair, wetting his head and sending a chill down his back. Instead of putting on his hat, he placed the flat of his palm on his forehead and stroked the dampness accruing there. He sat down on the edge of the porch, quickly soaking the seat of his pants.
He rubbed his hands together and massaged the pain in his knuckles, then lifted his left foot and took hold of the heel of his boot and tugged it off. He straightened his back, took a breath, and in a moment crossed his right leg over stiffly and removed the other boot. Henry decided, because it was his option to do so, that he would abandon his boots. He paired them up evenly there on the boards.
Henry could not remember when last he had walked barefoot in the rain, mud squishing up between his toes. He believed it was Black Elk, or maybe Chief Seattle, who had said that the man who always wears his moccasins thinks the earth is covered with leather. Henry looked at his boots and wondered how long they would sit before someone took them. They were good Wellingtons and not badly worn, and he thought someone would be surprised to find a pair of boots on the porch at Dr. Belton’s place.
Henry planted his palms on his knees, caressed the wet brown twill trousers, and from those points levered himself to standing. He would let his feet know that this piece of earth was covered with mud, and thought perhaps they’d enjoy knowing that.
He tilted his face downward and was lifting his rumpled and sweat-stained felt hat when he heard his name called and,