Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Book Review #1: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Number of pages: 272
Copy: E-book
Date Published: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Rating: Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic

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. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over–and see everything anew.

I’ve read “Elsewhere” which I thought was heartfelt but not entirely enchanting. I am also familiar with “All These Things I’ve Done” only because of the dripping chocolate cover (superficial, I know). These books made me assume that Gabrielle Zevin’s works were solely concentrated on the young adult territory. I guess I was wrong.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is about a bookstore owner, A.J. whose character is no way near pleasing. He is irritable and uptight, gracing his first meeting with Amelia, the new sales rep, with a list of his what-nots and distastes in literature. Despite his cocky attitude, A.J. is miserable and continues to be so after his prized possession, a copy of a rare novel, is stolen.

With the disappearance of one thing comes the arrival of another – not a thing, but a person this time which brought forth opportunities for love, growth, forgiveness, and second chances.

The theme of the novel is nothing new but the story telling and the dialogue among other things are quite unique. Interactions among the characters are very much amusing. I love the exchanges between A.J. and Amelia, Maya’s thoughts and her development as a character, and even A.J.’s short reviews at the beginning of each chapter. The atmosphere keeps itself light despite the occurrence of tragic (tolerable, I assure you) events and this I appreciate because it makes the story telling appear consistent.

The pace of the novel is good. I was able to read it in less than a day and I kidd you not I do not have much of an attention span to finish a book in one sitting.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a book about books, something very delightful for readers. The book mentions known titles – Lamb to the Slaughter, The Tell-Tale Heart, What We Talk about When We Talk About Love, the Book Thief – and authors – Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl – to name a few. I found myself looking forward to what A.J. Fikry’s fickle mind has to say about a book I knew.

All in all, I am impressed. This story was enjoyable to say the least. It’s packed with mystery, romance, and a fascinating turn of events. It is not entirely unforgettable but it is nevertheless heartwarming and as such deserves a place in my “loved” shelf in goodreads.

Favorite quotes from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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.

A place ain’t a place without a bookstore.

I can promise you books and conversation and all my heart.

I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be—basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful—nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups à la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children’s books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and—I imagine this goes without saying—vampires.

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