Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
By Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books April 2014
260 pages
Read via Netgalley

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

A.J. Fikry has resigned himself to his life. His wife has died and sales at his beloved Island Books are not doing well. He deals with his depression by staying alone and snapping at the people he must encounter. But everything changes with the arrival of two females - Amelia, a publishing company sales rep and the baby girl who is left inside his bookstore because her mother wants her to grow up with people who love books.  

This is one of those books that is gloriously and unashamedly written for people who love books.“They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?” Each chapter is named for a short story and begins with A.J. explaining why he loves this particular one. The reader gets a detailed look into the world of running a bookstore through A.J.'s eyes and about the publishing industry through Amelia's experiences. 

 Zevin pulls a bait and switch at the beginning of the novel by starting from the point of view of Amelia. We see the island, the bookstore, and A.J. through her fresh eyes as she makes her very first visit for her job. After this first chapter, the narrative switches to our favorite ornery bookseller. This technique is great because it gives us an overview of the island that we wouldn't get from A.J. because he has lived there for so long. The brilliance of it, though, is that as we read more about A.J., we are also impatiently waiting for Amelia's return.

The character development in this story seems so authentic. A.J. slowly thaws and we see him taking big, courageous steps as he decides if he can love someone again after the loss of his wife. Even the minor characters - A.J.'s sister-in-law Ismay and a local cop - become characters you root for and want to read more about. Zevin excels at making you feel things deeply. Her writing is simple but perfectly captures the emotions of A.J. and the rest of the beloved characters. It's one of those glorious experiences where you will laugh and you will cry and you won't feel the least bit guilty for either because these characters seem real to you.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a must-read for people who love books. It reminds us to open up to love and to good books. It proclaims that the right story in the right moment can heal our pain or bring us joy again. This is the sort of book that bibliophiles will keep close by, so that they can read it over and over again. 


  1. I enjoyed reading your review Lindsey... I've heard nothing but good things about this particular book. Although, I'm sure it is titled differently in the UK - The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry.
    Bits & Bobs

    1. That would make a lot of sense, given something that A.J. says in the story!

  2. This is such a feel-good book. Sweet and life affirming and fun to read. Plus ALL THE BOOKS. The author was at my store last night and I had a great time chatting with her.

    1. I have all the jealous feelings.I bet it was a great event!

      At one point while reading this, I actually turned to my husband and said, "This is a problem. I have things to do, but I don't want to stop reading this book...ever."

  3. I love this review! So heartfelt. I like the word "thaws" for A.J. - what a perfect description of the way he evolves as a character. And I agree all of these character seemed real - I actually wish they were developed even more than they were. Zevin could've made this book 100 pages longer and we would have gladly read on!

    1. I love when authors do that. I would read a separate book about each character!