Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikery
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Published: 2014
Genre: Adult Fiction – Literary

Synopsis: On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is 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. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. 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. Fikry 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 A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.

My Rating: Red-StarRed-StarRed-StarRed-Star 1/2

4.5 stars and a favorite

So, after 2 YA back to back I needed something more, if you understand. Considering that this book is barely 250 pages, I knew I could finish it in 2 days and that’s what I needed. Quite quickly I realized that Zevin employed the type of literary writing that speaks to me and quite often becomes a favorite. Truly the story revolves around 3 characters and a small cast of supporting ones that are all equally charming. Set in a small island-town off the coast of Massachusetts we meet A.J. Fikery. Thirty-eight years old, depressed, persnickety, literary snob, bookstore owner and recent widower. He lives in a flat above his store were he survives off frozen Indian food and wine. He has solidified plans to drink himself to an early death when his life is quite suddenly turned upside down when someone leaves a baby in his store and asks that he raise her.

This book was like candy to my book-loving soul. A.J. quickly become one of my favorite voices ever. He’s a true nerd, aware of his nerdhood and his unlikely friendship with the chief of police is, to say the least, comical yet refreshingly heartwarming.

As A.J.’s life changes with the arrival of Maya he finds that there’s still a part of him that loves and is adventurous. There’s parts of him that are still alive and I think that’s one of the most important lessons. I truly adored the cast of characters and even more, loved Zevin’s voice. I don’t want to give much of it away, like I said, it’s a short book but it packs such a great story within it. It shows how you don’t have to write a 600 page book to tell a great story and fill characters with life. I think this is one I will revisit and re-read just to enjoy all the small tidbits one might have missed.

Highly recommend it.


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