A LITTLE SPOILER AHEAD
SYNOPSIS: 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.
REVIEW: When I first got this book, I kind of thought it was just going to be a nice, uplifting YA story. And while that is true, there’s so much more to this novel that hides behind the cover.
The story centers around AJ Fikry, an old, widowed drunk who runs Island Books, and one night mysteriously finds a toddler left in his store. This event basically propels his life in directions he never would have thought possible, and as readers we get to sit in on the ride.
This book has so many chances to be cheesy and poorly done, but Zevin keeps it all refreshing with her dialogue and the twists and turns the novel’s plot takes. I think all the characters are well developed, even though the novel goes through time very quickly. The book covers a span of around 15-20 or so years, and through that we can see the characters growing and aging and dealing with all of the things that come along with it.
It does take a while for us to really get into the good stuff in the plot, however the slower beginning is still well written and interesting enough for me to not have just put the book down altogether. This novel will always stick out to me as a book with a lot of charm that left me feeling sadly optimistic about life.