Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published Date: April 1, 2014
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Contemporary Literature
Source: She Reads & Publisher
The #1 Indie Next Pick and the #1 Library Reads Selection for April 2014!
In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books—and booksellers—that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.
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.
- Rent/Buy/Borrow: Definitely a keeper! Buy the book-it’s worth the price!
- Themes: widowhood, adoption, family secrets, community, relationships
- Quick or Long Read: It was a quick read!
- The Cover: The cover doesn’t do the story justice. However, I absolutely love the U.K cover and it gives a great picture to the idea of what the story is about.
- Overall Thoughts: It’s a book about a bookstore owner, who has decided how he will live the remainder of his life. However, fate has a different idea. Working in the bookstore, and living above it, the story mainly takes place in the small store that becomes a community meeting place. A.J. Fikry becomes the father to a little girl, left at his store, which is when he gets a new lease on life and love. A true gem of a book, it’s a book that many will love!
- Audience: Anyone that loves contemporary fiction, a love story wrapped up in a little book, a story about the relationship between a father and his daughter, a great read for an afternoon or two.
I absolutely loved this story. From the first few pages, I was immediately hooked and wanted to know more about the quirky, “old” bookseller, A.J. Fikry. He is an Edgar All Poe collector, and an old copy of EAP’s book, “Tamerlane”. One night, that is book is missing and a little girl appears in his bookstore with a note attached from the girl’s mother.
The story is so cleverly written, almost like a fairy tale, because of the oddity of a little girl being left in the bookstore and the magical relationship she and A.J. have. However, it goes far beyond a fairy tale. There is heartache, lessons learned, and love reborn. Above all, the cranky and detached A.J. creates a family consisting of the townspeople and his little girl.
I loved Amelia’s character, too. She is a young woman, who loves books so much, that she takes a low paying job of being a publicist rep. She has to take the long trip to Alice Island, where she meets A.J. for the first time. From there, a relationship grows as both her passion of books and A.J.’s gives them much in common. Even, their commonality of feeling lonely.
With nods to some great literary works and book clubs, this book will easily become a favorite for many bibliophiles. More than anything, it will make readers more curious when they go to their own little bookstore and wonder what magical finds are awaiting them, too!