The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
By: Gabrielle Zevin
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Hanging over the porch of the tiny New England bookstore called Island Books is a faded sign with the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming him or for a determined sales rep named Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light. The wisdom of all those books again become the lifeblood of A.J.’s world and everything twists into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.
Oh, man, I’ve been excited to read this book since I first heard of it. The premise of this novel just sounds perfect for readers and book lovers, and of course I have a fondness for books about books and books with bookshop owners as the main characters. I’ve been reading lots of good things about the book from book bloggers as well, so I was quite happy when I finally got a copy of this book to read.
I admit, I sort of forgot some of the details about the premise of this book; I was so caught up with the notion of this tiny New England bookstore that it totally flew over my head that AJ’s grumpiness stemmed from the recent tragedy of losing his wife. But it’s interesting to read as A.J. gets through his grief and begins to connect with the world around him in a way he hadn’t before. It’s whimsical, the type of stories perhaps we book lovers would love to find our way into somehow. It’s delightful and touching to read as AJ starts connecting with other people, discovering new friends, helping people and the community, and growing as a person in the process that by the end, sad as it is, it’s also triumphant.
And of course there’s everything bookish about this book. There’s of course the references to both classics and modern and contemporary titles, but also that understanding, that connection between the reader and the book. Maya’s early wanderings in the bookstore, that discovery, was one of those beautiful moments. There’s that caution of books elevating our expectations, but also the romanticism, that yearning for that special connection.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a heartfelt and magical read about the power of books and how life can happen when you least expect it. It was also pretty funny at times too, the way the story was told, like the narration was having a conversation with you at times. I found myself struggling a bit in thinking whether there was a wee bit of magical realism involved, but aside from Nic’s spirit making an appearance to A.J. early on and Maya’s amazing ability to learn and catch on to things quickly at the age of two, it’s really about people and events connecting in unexpected ways. I came to love the characters and being a part of their lives that I was quite sad when I got to the end of the book. This review isn’t that detailed, if only because a lot of the events that happen is something that needs to be read for yourself. I highly recommend this book especially to book lovers–it’s another fantastic read to cap off the year! 🙂