REVIEW: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

BOOK: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrytumblr_np4txckx3d1r06e19o1_400
AUTHOR: Gabrielle Zevin
PAGES: 272
PUBLISHER: Algonquin Books
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)

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. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

I have to admit that I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Although I had my doubts when the “big surprise” was dropped into AJ’s lap in the first part of the book, Zevin managed to pull it off without the cliches I feared the writing might succumb to. Zevin goes on to tell the story of AJ, a widower down on his luck, just getting by, when an unexpected gift forces him to make some positive changes in his life. As AJ grows you will quickly find yourself sympathizing and celebrating with all the colorful characters of this novel.

I really enjoyed how the descriptions before each chapter were foreshadowing towards the ending and created a “must read” list. It was interesting to recognize the stories and then learn AJ’s opinions of them.

My only complaint was really the ending. Everything started to feel rushed to finish it all off. All the loose ends seemed to be tied, and while generally that can be the closure we need as the reader, it just seemed all wrong. It left all the pondering we do after we close the book, having just finished the last few pages, to be lost.

Overall the novel was worth the read. Zevrin’s characters alone will pull you through to the end by the tight grip they have on your heartstrings.


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