The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
Published April 1st 2014 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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 love books about books. I can’t help it, I just do. We meet A.J. Fikry when he’s in a place of despair. His book store is failing, his wife is dead, his best friend is a womanizing drunk. A.J is a grump. He’s a book snob. He reminded me of my husband (a former book seller)-who I love dearly-but he is also a book snob (and maybe a grump).
“Everyone thinks they have good taste, but most people do not have good taste. In fact, I’d argue that most people have terrible taste. When left to their own devices– literally their own devices– they read crap and they don’t know the difference.”
How can you not love A.J. Fikry? We learn what A.J. expects from his books:
“If a gun appears in act one, that gun had better go off by act three.”
YES! I loved that each chapter began with a book review by A.J. I loved how we learned what books he chose for Island Books changed as he changed himself. This was a book about books; more importantly it was a book about life, about how we make family and about love. I think this is one that it is best to read without knowing too many details, so I’ll stop here. This book made me laugh and made me tear up. What a life A.J. Fikry had.
One more quote, because as I know I had this experience and I want to know who else did too:
…”I always wanted to try the Turkish Delight in Narnia. When I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a boy, I used to think that Turkish Delight must be incredibly delicious if it made Edmund betray his family, A.J. says. I guess I must have told my wife this, because one year Nic gets a box for me for the holidays. And it turned out to be this powdery, gummy candy. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in my whole life.”
RIGHT? That stuff is so gross! Such a let down.
Read it and tell if you loved this too! Also-survey please on Turkish Delight. My husband has never tried it and I’m appalled. I feel like this disappointment is a milestone in life.
All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition
Thank you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for this advanced read copy in exchange for an honest review!