A Reader Opines: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Expected Publication: April 2014 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Genre: Literary Fiction | Contemporary
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*

I’ve often thought, and have heard others voice my thought, that I’d like to live in a bookstore. To be surrounded my so many worlds, pages and pages of adventure, joy, sorrow and journeys of self-discovery would be amazing. In The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry we get a glimpse of what it might be like to actually live in a bookstore.

Summary taken from Goodreads:
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.

It was easy to fall under this book’s spell. The characters are intriguing, the story endearing and the plot surprising. A.J. Fikry is a wonderful character and witnessing his change from beginning to end is a joy. The secondary characters push A.J. in directions he finds uncomfortable and his reactions run the spectrum from appalled to resigned to satisfied. The bookstore itself is a character and it plays its part well.

There were a few things that bothered me: I found it disconcerting to go from one characters mind to the next within one scene. It wasn’t like head-hopping, once the point of view changed it didn’t go back to the original until the next scene or chapter. I also wanted more of Maya. She gets a few shining moments, but for the most part we get only glimpses of what’s underneath. I wish she had been a bit more developed.

Overall, this novel is enjoyable. It tugs at the heartstrings and portrays a bookstore as a living breathing entity. That in itself deserves recommendation.

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