ABOUT THE BOOK:
We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.
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 Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry 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, he 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, though large in weight—an 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 A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, 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.
LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a 2014 Algonquin Books publication.
Thanks to my Goodreads friend, Carol, for introducing me to this book!
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“No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World”
This is the second ‘books about books’ novel I’ve read this week, and I have to say, it’s nice to know so many people share the same enthusiasm for books that I do.
This story is poignant and bittersweet, but is also charming, touching and heartwarming. It’s a reader’s paradise and will soothe the brow of any book nerd who can’t help but feel a strong kinship with the characters, and maybe even recognize yourself in them just a little bit.
A.J. owns and operates the independent books store, “Island Books”, located on Alice Island, Massachusetts, alone after his wife is killed in a car accident. As he stumbles through each day in a fog of bitter grief, a series of events snaps him to attention and his life takes on a new direction, one he never could have imagined.
The first part of the book kept me in stitches. I’ve known literary snobs, and A.J. is one. I laughed out loud at his aversion to stocking Young Adult and children's books, and his opinion on series, and vampires. Then we got to the part where A.J. deals with customers and if you have worked in a bookstore or library you’ll relate, and again I’m laughing hysterically.
“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”
But, A.J.’s persnickety personality is soon softened by a very special surprise delivery to his shop, which gives him a new perspective on life and relationships, including one with the book sales representative, Amelia, who warms up to A.J. after getting off to a pretty rough start, and the local chief of police who becomes one of his best friends.
The story is like an homage to book lovers, reading, and the way books shape us and the impact they can have on our outlook on life, even in our relationships, our attitudes, and how they can inspire us through good and bad times.
I loved A.J. right from the start. I understood where he was in life at that very moment, and while I snickered at his drollness, his deadpan introverted nature, my heart broke for him.
It was an honor to watch him come back to life and embrace it with as much gusto has he could muster. Seeing his life enriched in such an amazing way was only part of the story. A.J. and his little bookstore also touched and enriched other’s lives all of them had a life much better than the one they would have had without him. He built an important legacy over the years, and that legacy, thanks to those he loved, will go on to extend the love of books and reading to people for a long time to come… even to those who love vampires, series, Young Adult, and Children’s books about orphans.
This a delightful story that lifted my spirits and warmed my heart.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabrielle Zevin is the New York Times Best Selling author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Her ninth novel is Young Jane Young.