Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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.
This book has my heart! It is another one of those books a reader who loves books and reading, except this reader is also a bookshop keeper! It’s so lovely and heartwarming. The book also has the best kind of dry humor – one that isn’t too awkward or out of place. It’s so well done, especially with the inclusion of a young child in the context of so many adult scenarios. It’s hilarious and witty, and the relaxed tone of the narrative makes the story so much funnier. There are even some dark moments sprinkled throughout the story. I guess you wouldn’t expect dark and dry humor in a book that narrates the life of a book seller. But it works! It actually works SO well. I have to give my kudos to the author and her ability to create such an authentic and original perspective and tone of voice, and for putting together such unlikely themes that go so well together.
The characters are all so special in their own way. Each one has their own unique intellectuality that gets their respective spotlight in the novel. Maya is without a doubt my favorite character! She is a toddler with the mentality that I strive to have as a 19 year old.
The bibliophile themes and aspects were what hit me the most. Naturally, the mention of ARCs and rare collectors edition classics make my heart swell. Most of the time the story goes on a tangent in unpredictable ways, but I guess that’s supposed to mirror the spontaneity and impulsive tendencies of life. And I love it! I love a good book that explores a character in all their true glory. You’re just watching them as they handle whatever bullsh*t life throws at them. It’s like watching an unedited vlog of someone’s life. It’s beautiful and real, and also very entertaining!
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is definitely worth the read, not only for its literary themes, but because of how raw and heartfelt the story is. It’s a tiiiny book – a little less than 250 pages. But it certainly packs a punch.
Here are my final thoughts on the book (literally what I wrote down on the book the moment I finished the last page):
“So much is explored in less than 300 pages. How is it possible to feel sad and angry, yet happy and giddy at the same time? My heart is so full. Books about books and characters with a passion for literature is always something to amazing to read about, and I think it’s because these authors are able to use the right words for the emotions that us readers are unable to express properly. I can only attest to all the “yes! ❤ ” and ” I love this so much!!” and “OMG” annotations scattered throughout the book to prove how much I absolutely loved and enjoyed it.”