Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

From the back of the book: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.

“The words you can't find, you borrow. We read 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 these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels. The analogy he is looking for is almost there. We are not quite short stories. At this point, his life is seeming closest to that.
In the end, we are collected works.” 
-The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

 It's no secret that I love books about books, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is really no exception there, because it's not just about books, it also feels a bit like a love letter to everyone who truly loves reading. A.J. Fikry reads books. He talks about books. He makes his livelihood by selling books. His most prized possession is a limited edition book. Indeed, nearly his whole life seems to be filtered through...you guessed it...books. Now that's a main character that I can relate to! :)

All that said, it's taken me awhile to write a review for this one because I wasn't entirely sure what to say. See, it's kind of a vanilla book. Safe. Clean. Predictable. Even the drama isn't particularly dramatic. Nothing about it is revolutionary. But I also really enjoyed it, and found that it was one of those books that I carved time out of my day to read. You know the ones--the ones that you carry with you and sneak a moment or two of reading wherever you can. I liked A.J. All of the supporting characters were developed well, and I really, genuinely liked all of them.  It was a fun book to read, and it reminded me of both The Rosie Project and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore in terms of the overall vibe of the book (both of which I really enjoyed). It was quiet, it was charming, and it was wise.


Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book for review through Net Galley. I did not receive any further compensation for this review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. You all should know by now that I couldn't lie about a book even if I wanted to :)

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