A year of reading a book a day helps Westporter cope with loss of loved one
The loss of someone dear sometimes causes those grieving to curl up in a ball and retreat from life.
After the death of an older sister, Nina Sankovitch curled up in an old purple chair with 365 books, and read one each day of the year from October 2008 to October 2009.
"My sister and I shared a lot of books together. We were very different in many ways, but books were something that we both loved," said the Westport resident.
"I'm not a speed reader but I read quickly and I figured I could read a 200- to 300-page book while (my children) were at school. ... We often had pizza for dinner (but) my family was really great about it, really supportive," she said.
Sankovitch gave herself some ground rules: "I couldn't read any book I'd read before and I couldn't read any author more than once," she said.
It wasn't enough for the Westport woman to read so many books. She wrote a review for each as well, which she posted daily on her website, www.readallday.org. Her efforts led to the writing and publication of her first book "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading," which will be released June 7.
"The process of writing it was another intense year because I wrote it in a year, and it definitely wasn't as pleasurable as my year of reading. It was a lot harder to write a book than it was to read 365," she said.
Through the self-imposed project, Sankovitch said she found there had been many times in her life, not just when Anne-Marie Sankovitch died of cancer in 2005, that books had become a sanctuary. She explored that discovery in "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair."
"It's not only about that one year of very intense reading and writing about books, but really about how my whole life I have looked to books to help me, not only in times of sorrow for my sister but for escape, for wisdom, for guidance in high school," said Sankovitch, who comes from a family of readers.
"I was coming out of a period where I had been very unhappy and sad because my oldest sister died, so I decided that the (web)site would become a place where I would record how much I got out of books and how I came to see that I was still going to move forward in life by reading books, by relying on books," she said.
Sankovitch found, through responses to her reviews that she was not alone. "A lot of people started to come to the website and share their own stories about how they read to get out of periods of confusion or sorrow or inertia," Sankovitch said.
The title of Sankovitch's book comes from two sources; one being a Tolstoy book she read during the year-long project because of its message of connectivity and how one life impacts another. "My sister had impacted my life so much she was never going to go away because she was always going to be a part of my life," she said.
As for the second title influence, Sankovitch said, "The purple chair is where I did most of my reading. It's this very old and crumby purple chair that my husband and I have had for a long time and it's really comfortable."
Sankovitch said she hopes her book encourages people who read it to start their own reading challenge, "to find what joy and pleasure there is in reading."
Sankovitch will appear in June at the Westport Public Library the day after her book is released to talk about her year-long reading and writing project, but the public can catch a sneak preview at 8 p.m. April 12 in the library's McManus Room, when Sankovitch will speak at the invitation of the Westport Young Women's League.
Sankovitch said the Westport Library was a great resource for her. "The express books were perfect for me because I didn't need more than a day. I didn't pay a late fine all year, the only year that's never happened," she joked.
For more information about Sankovitch's book and library appearances, visit www.readallday.org.