#Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by @gabriellezevin

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryTitle: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Rating: 5/5 stars

“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.” (description from Goodreads)

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I wasn’t sure what I was going to get into when starting this book. A friend got me a copy of it after seeing that I’d read Silas Marner and said that I’d probably enjoy this one, too. I enjoyed Elliot’s classic novel, so there was no reason to not give The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry a chance from a recommendation like that.

Is this a modern day retelling of Silas Marner? Not exactly, and that’s what I think is one of the great things about Zevin’s book. There are shared elements to the basic character relationships, but it goes above and beyond them, creating a story all its own, with characters that worked their way into my heart and ideas about the books, as well as the book world, that many readers of all sorts can relate to.

Another thing I liked is that at the beginning of each chapter is a quick message from A.J. to Maya about a short story he wants her to read. Some I’ve read. Others I haven’t. I’ll be going back through to write them down and read myself. I’m always welcome to further reading while reading books. It’s just one of the ways to expand my reading list.

While a quick read, it tugs at various emotions, ideas about life, and opinions about books. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry won me over early on and toward the end I didn’t want to get to the last chapter, I wanted it to keep going. I can only hope that the next book by Zevin that I pick up will give me a similar feeling.

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You can grab a copy of this book from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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About the Author:

Gabrielle Zevin has published six novels. Her debut, Margarettown, was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program. The Hole We’re In was on Entertainment Weekly’s Must List and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Every day newspaper articles chronicle families battered by the recession, circling the drain in unemployment and debt or scraping by with minimum-wage jobs. But no novel has truly captured that struggle until now.” Publishers Weekly called the novel “a Corrections for our recessionary times.”

Of all her books, she is probably best known for the young adult novel Elsewhere. Elsewhere, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, was nominated for a Quill Award and received the Borders Original Voices Award. The book has been translated into over twenty languages. Of Elsewhere, the New York Times Book Review wrote, “Every so often a book comes along with a premise so fresh and arresting it seems to exist in a category all its own… Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin, is such a book.”

She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (Helena Bonham Carter, Aaron Eckhart) for which she received an Independent Spirit Award Nomination. In 2009, she and director Hans Canosa adapted her novel Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (ALA Best Books for Young Adults) into the Japanese film, Dareka ga Watashi ni Kiss wo Shita. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered. She began her writing career at age fourteen as a music critic for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Zevin is a graduate of Harvard University. After many years on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she recently moved to Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

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One response to “#Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by @gabriellezevin

  1. Pingback: 2014, A Year in Review(s) | A Life Among The Pages

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