Reading guide for The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer

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The Poet of Tolstoy Park

by Sonny Brewer

The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2005, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2006, 288 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

    This is a fictionalized account of a true story. How accurate do you think Brewer’s portrayal of Henry Stuart might be, and does this affect your enjoyment of the book?

  1. What qualities do you most admire in Henry, and what do you think we can learn from his story?

  2. What do you think cured Henry?

  3. After outliving his diagnosis, why do you think Henry chose not to return to his sons in Idaho?

  4. Does Henry Stuart remind you of anyone you know? Do you think a story like his could take place today?

  5. Brother O’Neil says: “Books and writing are agents for the accumulation of ideas and your minds are overfull.” What do you think of this statement, and what do you think of Henry’s strategy to quiet his “overfull” mind?

  6. Author Sonny Brewer is the editor of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, an anthology of Southern writing. What do you think makes a novel “Southern,” and do you consider The Poet of Tol­stoy Park a Southern novel?

  7. How would you characterize the female characters in this novel?

  8. Henry believed that “no work is wasted,” that work, philosophi­cally, is a means without regard to its end. What could be the value to a man of constructing a house of concrete if he might die before he finishes it?

  9. What do you think motivates Henry to go barefoot? What do you think of the statement, “If all the hobnail boots were put away, wars would end”?

  10. Do you think this book would make a good movie?

  11. Do you wish the author had written more romance into the re­lationship between Henry and Kate? Why or why not?

  12. What do you think is in the shoe box that Thomas gives Henry at the end of the book?

  13. An osprey appears to Henry when he falls down in the creek. What do you think the osprey symbolizes?

  14. What role did Black Elk play in Henry Stuart’s life?

  15. John Lennon sang “Imagine” with lyrics that imagined people living at peace in a world with “no religion too.” Do you agree that would be a good idea? Henry did not go to church, but did he have “religion”?

  16. When the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke exhorted readers to “be ahead of all parting” what did he mean, and how might this relate to The Poet of Tolstoy Park?

  17. At the end of the book, the author fast-forwards the nar­rative about twenty years. If you were going to write of those “missing” years of Henry Stuart, what would your favorite scene be?

  18. Robert Frost said, “Writing is as good as it is dramatic. Period.” Where’s the drama in The Poet of Tolstoy Park?

  19. How would you characterize the author’s writing style?

  20. If you could rename this book, what would you name it?

    Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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