The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (Algonquin Books, 2014) What reader doesn’t love a story set in a bookstore? …especially a quirky, little independent bookshop in a purple Victorian cottage on Alice Island where the faded sign reads:
Alice Island’s Exclusive Provider of
Fine Literary Content since 1999
No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World
Within the first ten pages of this book, the reader is transported to a place where time is trying to stand still, but of course it won’t. We are immediately introduced to a curmudgeonly bookshop proprietor (A.J Fikry), an eager young publishing representative (Amelia Loman), and a tragic set of circumstance that creates tension between the two of them from the beginning. Fikry is reeling from the loss of his beloved wife and he’s not really coping with his grief and loss. The store isn’t exactly thriving either. We meet Fikry just as his life is about to change dramatically. He suffers another devastating loss and gains a reason to live in the space of a few short weeks.
As the story unfolds, we meet more of the residents of Alice Island and the characters in this book are very well written, interesting, and endearing—with lots of juicy dialog between them. We come to care about them and their community and it goes without saying, we are rooting for Fikry to pull himself together. The writing is clever and crisp and I love a good convention in a book and this one has one—each chapter is introduced with a short book review suitable for a printed shelf-talker. Sometimes it takes until the end of the chapter to figure out what the review had to do with the action in the chapter, but that just makes it more fun. A side benefit of this setup is that I got a bunch of recommendations of books to read.
This is a great selection for a book club, makes a great gift for a reader in your life, and I promise it’s a page-turner.
Mary Jo Ryan