"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Monday, April 21, 2014

You Can't Resist "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin - book review

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author:  Gabrielle Zevin
Published:  2014
Publisher:  Viking, a division of Penguin Random House Company
Pages:  260
Source:  borrowed

An irresistible novel about second chances and finding room for all the books - and all the love - that transform our lives
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, 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, 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.

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.

My Thoughts:

There's been a lot of buzz about the newest novel by Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and I'll tell  you why.  A.J. Fikry is a bit of a grouchy bookseller.  Recently widowed, the bottle has become his means of escape.  Even the new rep from one of the publishers he does business with receives a most cold reception.  After sending her on her way and preparing to close up shop he hears and then finds a toddler with a note asking him to take care of her.  No mother or anyone in sight.

What does he know about babies, changing diapers, feeding a baby? he asks himself.  Turns out, you can Google that!  This sweet child changes his life, as often children have a knack of doing, and the rough edges that make up A.J. Fikry begin to soften and wear away.  

Not only does he change his lifestyle, but soon even his business is affected, his friendships, and the sales rep makes a welcome reappearance.

I absolutely love this novel.  It's hard not to.  The setting is a bookstore, the protagonist a bookseller, and we have the added joy of reading about various titles recommended and/or on his daughter's reading list.  A.J. Fikry even decides he loves short story collections.  Gasp!

"The most elegant creation in the prose universe is a short story.  Master the short story and  you'll have master the world, he thinks just before he drifts off to sleep.  I should write this down, he thinks." (page 246)

The author, Gabrielle Zevin, truly must love books.  She understands her reader does too for she writes, "We need to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone."  

"My life is in those books, he wants to tell her (Maya).  Read these and know my heart....We are not quite novels...We are not quite short stories.  In the end, we are collected works."

He has perfect insight - "We aren't the things we collect, acquire, read.  We are, for as long as we are here, only love."

Fikry's life has changed so much and the journey forward warms your heart as you read about this imperfect man who finally finds perfect meaning.  When you lose yourself in love, that is when you find yourself, as Fikry did.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a warm, charming, intellectually stirring story... of romance, love and books and a man who finds he has it all after all. 

Rating:  a favourite of 2014

Meet the author:

Gabrielle Zevin has published six adult and young-adult novels, including an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, Elsewhere. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. She is the screenwriter ofConversations with Other Women, for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. She has also written for The New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Los Angeles.

1 comment:

  1. The author of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry wrote this of her novel in an interview with Huffington Post:

    "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. The novel is about a bookseller who finds a toddler in a bookstore, but at the heart of the story, it's about readers and the way people read. At times, it's about the difference between what people say they read and what they actually read. For example, at one point in my book, a husband and wife are discussing her first literary crush. "John Irving," she claims, but the husband knows better. "Ann M. Martin," he corrects her. " Huffington Post Interview with Gabrielle Zevin

    In this article she discusses why we, as readers, claim to have certain favourite books when, in fact, they truly are not our favourites. Have you ever done that? Have you claimed one book as your favourite because you thought people would perceive you better for having done so?


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