I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a review about this book, because I wasn’t sure if I liked it enough. The writing was painted in beautiful watercolors in the way of most great southern storytellers. But not much happened. It isn’t an exciting book, or a particularly funny book.
But something about it has stuck with me, and that, I think, is the mark of a truly good book. There are passages and ideas I think about all the time.
This is the mostly true story of Henry Stuart, a poet/professor who leaves his home in Idaho when he receives a tubercular death sentence. His doctor thinks he’d be more comfortable in a warm climate and, through a convoluted set of connections, ends up in Fairhope, Alabama. He buys a piece of property, sight unseen. His love of Leo Tolstoy’s writings cause him to name the place Tolstoy Park. There, he commences to build a round house. And when I say build, I mean build. The bulk of the action takes place in the 1920s, and there are no Home Depots or Lowe’s stores. He hauls sand from the beach, pours his own concrete blocks, engineers the roof, and does all the physical labor himself, despite his illness, and despite the offers of help from curious neighbors.
That’s more or less the plot, and, except for particulars in dialogue and scene, what really happened. You can go to Tolstoy Park now, and see the hut he built, which the author, Sonny Brewer, restored and lived in while writing this book.
What has stuck with me: the idea of labor itself being a kind of prayer or meditation; the power of living entirely in the moment that you are in; and the comparison with the softness that our society has embraced only a hundred years later. Among other things.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Told You…” is set to be released in the Spring of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.