Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
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.
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
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I hadn’t heard a lot about this book when I picked this up, but the few that I had heard was all positive. Some of my favorite reviewers and bloggers had given this a very high rating, so I was looking forward to reading it. I went into this without knowing too much; I mean, yeah, I knew it was about a man who owns a bookstore, but that’s about it. Surprisingly, this book is a lot more than that. It’s about family, about depression and suicide, about love and loss. I really enjoyed the story. Although it wasn’t terribly exciting, it flowed smoothly and warm-hearted. I loved the characters, and Zevin writes with beautiful fluidity.
Overall, this was a solid book. Well worth the read, and a must-read for book lovers of all ages. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and it has some very heartfelt moments without being too cheesy or pretentious.
I didn’t expect the story of this book to be as rich as it turned out to be. It’s so much more than I ever expected. It covers themes ranging from suicide to love, from loss to perseverance. It has romance, it has lots of awesome book references, it has mystery and it has death, and plenty of it. But despite some of the darker aspects, this book makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, because it’s written with such raw, undisguised honesty. It’s tender and passionate, and because it’s such a quick read, it’s even more impacting.
This was what MADE the book for me. The characters are so real, I can’t even begin to describe it in words. A.J. Fikry is one of those characters that you don’t like at first, but he grows on you. He’s grumpy and cynical, but he’s warm and generous and such a loving person. He’s honest, and everything he feels and the way he feels it is described in such heartbreakingly vivid detail, it feels like you’re a part of him. He’s a rich, rich character, and that’s all I can say, because I can’t explain how much I loved him.
Even the secondary characters. Lambiase, Fikry’s friend, is such a fantastic character. His development is subtle, but it’s definitely there. You grow attached to every character in this book because they’re all so well-crafted and well-developed. They are flawed, which makes them seem real. They are as human as you and me, or at least that’s what I felt. If the story doesn’t intrigue you, definitely check out this novel for its characters because they are absolutely stunning.
Zevin’s writing is just the kind I love. It’s not overbearingly flowery. It carries its message and packs a huge punch through its brevity and simplicity. I feel like everything the characters do, every punctuation, every paragraph and space between the letters is thought-out, that everything on the page has a meaning that contributes to the larger picture in the novel. She writes with such poise and fluidity- nothing feels forced, nothing feels overdone or pretentious. She writes with honesty and passion, and it comes across in such a strong way that the reader feels this honesty and passion.
Not to mention that there are some pretty fantastic quotes in this book, about books and everything else in general. For example,
“Someday, you may think of marrying. Pick someone who thinks you’re the only person in the room.”
Or perhaps this one:
“Why is any 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.”
Ugh, I can’t even. This book is beautiful and everybody should read it. You have no excuse to not read it, because it’s super short and should appeal to anyone who loves to read. Do check it out.