Press and Reviews


“[A] stirring saga…” says the Wall Street Journal; “Vivid and intimate, Ms. Sankovitch’s account entertains us with Puritans and preachers, Tories and rebels, abolitionists and industrialists, lecturers and poets … Ms. Sankovitch has made a compelling contribution to Massachusetts and American History.”

Meet American’s Most Extraordinary Family: the Lowells of Massachusetts,” says The Washington Post“Sankovitch has searched out these letters to write the powerful story of one of America’s most extraordinary families, a family that helped shape the course of American history in dramatic and decisive ways…By the final pages of this volume, one feels deeply attached to the individual Lowells, while also exhilarated at having experienced this grand sweep of American history.

“[Sankovitch’s] skillful blending of context and detail makes the vicissitudes of one family emblematic of a nation’s.” – The New Yorker

The Connecticut Post calls it, “an astonishingly compact 328 pages (considering how much family history it covers) and reads like a fine novel. You might be reminded of one of those deep digs into history and storytelling that James Michener used to do in his novels “Hawaii” and “Chesapeake.”

“A fascinating collective biography … paying tribute to both worthy individuals and everyone else in this prominent, complicated family,” says Booklist.

Recommended by Library Journal:  “Sankovitch’s use of interpretative passages breathe color into descriptions of home life of various Lowells, adding an artistic dimension to the account. Her ability to switch the focus among the family members while keeping readers fully engaged in the narrative is a significant achievement.”

“A sturdy, busy multibiography of an eminent American family… Exhaustive work by a clear admirer and dogged researcher,” says Kirkus Reviews.  

Part memoir, part meditation, part artful history lesson…and part reminder to put a pen to paper when it comes to people we care about…” – Leigh Newman, Oprah.comcover-signed-198x300

“A sweet-natured, well-written affirmation of the time-honored role of letters as a uniquely personal way to communicate.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Perfect for devotes of pen and paper… will likely inspire both old-fashioned letter reading and letter writing.”
Publishers Weekly

Sankovitch’s “review of the art of letter writing is a unique blend of personal and public history…” – Library Journal

“Sankovitch combs history to find exceptional correspondents…More survey than anthology, this book should encourage readers to search out and read the letters’ full texts.” – Booklist

“Nonfiction treats: The author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair eloquently tracks the history of letter-writing, and along the way reminds us of how a real letter establishes a personal bond between the writer and the recipient.” – The Sacramento Bee

“How sad to think our children may never get a letter from a friend or a lover, the art of both—the sentiment and penmanship—fading away like an old Polaroid. Nina Sankovitch’s lovely, elegant book about the intimacy of letters is rich with treasures from politicians, soldiers, mothers, prisoners, husbands, and wooers. It is a joy to read, savor, and remember.” – Lesley Stahl


Kirkus Reviews named Tolstoy and the Purple Chair an outstanding debut of 2011 and gave it a starred review: “This celebration of the richness of reading will reward anyone who loves to read…Intelligent, insightful and eloquent, Sankovitch takes the reader on the literary journey…even the well-read reader will be inspired to explore some of the books from this magical year.”

Independent Book Sellers named Tolstoy and the Purple Chair to their list of Great Reads for June 2011 and to their Summer 2012 Paperback Next List. Caitlin Doggart, from the independent book store Where the Sidewalk Ends on Cape Cod, wrote for the group, exclaiming: “the best description of the power of books that I have ever encountered!”

O Magazine , June 2011, listed Tolstoy and the Purple Chair as a book to read now: “Anyone who has ever sought refuge in literature will identify.”

The Los Angeles Times wrote: “The beauty…lies in seeing how books intertwine with daily life, how very much they affect our moods, interactions, and how we recover and process our memories.”

The Christian Science Monitor listed Tolstoy and the Purple Chair as one of  “the smartest nonfiction titles for summer reading” and “a tribute to the power of books to enrich our daily lives.”

Publisher’s Weekly called Tolstoy and the Purple Chair “an entertaining bibliophile’s dream …  Sankovitch champions the act of reading not as an indulgence but as a necessity, and [her memoir] will make the perfect gift from one bookworm to another.”

BookPage described Tolstoy and the Purple Chair as an “affectionate and inspiring paean to the power of books…Sankovitch gracefully acknowledges that her year of reading was an escape into the healing sanctuary of books, where she learned how to move beyond recuperation to living.”

Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post wrote “how lucky we are to experience her journey in Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. Who knows how many people will find comfort in this beautiful little book in the months and years to come?” and in his review wrote, “[Tolstoy and the Purple Chair] digs deep into that near-mystical connection between a reader and an author—that startling feeling that you are channeling someone you have never met…A gripping and inspiring book.”

“An original and touching account of one woman’s lifelong affinity for books and her attempt to channel that affinity to deal with her grief after her sister dies. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is an understated but moving story about the effects of a ‘year of magical reading.’”
The Dartmouth