Thursday, May 1, 2014

SHE READS BOOK CLUB-APRIL: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabirelle Zevin

Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: April 1/2014
Acquired: Print copy provided by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

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.


I am 100% biased when it comes to the extent in which I loved this book, but everything that I'm one second away from enthusing about, is something that ALL book readers and sellers alike can appreciate. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was a book about books, for people who love books. End review.

No, but in all seriousness, how does it get ANY better than that? As a bookseller, to say that the synopsis of this book wooed me, is the understatement of the month. I was downright transfixed. I couldn't WAIT to open the pages of my copy. It was to my extra delight, that I found not only a narrative about the love and life of books, but an enchanting, fairy tale-like story, about a man who tended to them. A.J. Fikry, newly widowed, and cursing the very ground he walks upon daily, has only his book store as a distraction, and what a poor one it has become. Island Books exists on a tiny island in New England, and carries within it not only bounded gems, but an undeniable heart of it's very own. A.J. could not be bothered with the store's poor sales, and cares even less for the seemingly smug new Knightley Press rep, Amelia, who travels to the small island bearing that season's book catalogue to peruse. On particularly depressing night of drunken stupor, A.J. discovers that he's been robbed: his very old, very rare copy of Poe's Tamarlane has been stolen. But there seems to be a higher power at work, because with one thing lost, A.J. seems to have found another something to fill it with. Albeit, a completely unexpected something, but one that will forever change who he is.

I was completely smitten with just about every aspect of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, but naturally, I was even more delighted when any mention of book selling arose: the titles A.J. stocked in his store, the advanced reader copies he received every month to review, the publishers, the employees, the JOYS of working at and owning a bookstore! I was floating, and beside myself with familiarity and feelings of kinship. In one scene, when an elderly lady returns to the store what ends up being The Book Thief, my heart literally BURST. But personal connection aside, Gabrielle Zevin didn't cut ANY corners when laying down her words. The strength of the book's plot line brought me to tears. It was, essentially, a story about moving on, in the most unexpected ways. Of finding out that you could mean so much more to the world, if only you'd take the time to open your heart. The characters in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry became friends to me, and in the short time they were on the pages, they became more real to me than the person standing beside me.

It was raw human emotion, wrapped in a parcel made to resemble a dream. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry didn't literally start with "Once upon a time...", but in my mind, it was there, and the book had all of the makings of a fantastically written fairy tale. My only wish was that I could have read the same book, set in a different tone-one where each character was given the chance to fully develop: I wanted to know so much more. However, my selfish wishes did nothing to dampen the intense attachment I had for this book, and will continue to have, for a very long time.

Recommended for Fans of: Fairy tales, Contemporary, Books about books, Rachel Joyce.


CLICK HERE to read more about Gabrielle on her bio page.

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Thank-you She Reads for allowing me to participate, and to Algonquin Books for sending me a print copy to review this month!

1 comment:

  1. easily one of the best books I've read in a long, long time...ranking right up there with The Art of Racing in the Rain, Wish You so, just so wow.


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