Review “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry 

Gabrielle Zevin

Pub: April 2014, Algonquin Books



Rating: 5/5 Stars

“In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pee 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.” –

Ugh. This book. This book. It’s beautiful and gorgeous, well written. It made me laugh and cry and smile. I purposefully attached a picture of my own copy so you can see all the little sticky tabs of moments that made me react in some way. This is a book about books, written with care by someone who loves books. Somewhere in this synopsis ^ it says that this novel is a love letter to the world of books and I couldn’t agree more. There are so many publishing intricacies and little things you notice when you work in a bookstore. Not to mention comments on crafts and the classics.

The characterization and voice is incredible. Zevin gets each one spot on. Here’s one of my favorite bits from Maya as a little girl: “The first way Maya approaches a book is to smell it. She strips the book of its jacket, then holds it up to her face and wraps the boards around her ears. Books typically smell like Daddy’s soap, grass, the sea, the kitchen table, and cheese.” How gorgeous and perfect is this?

The time line of this book spans a long time and jumps a lot in years. It moves fast, but I can’t fault the book for that as it’s called The Storied LIFE of A.J. Fikry. But I honestly can’t pick apart and look for bad parts in the book when I loved it this much. At that point I’m just looking for things to say.

I had the sort of reaction to this book that every author hopes for and is the whole reason they write. And I honestly, cannot think of a higher compliment. I already can’t wait to re-read this.

At one point A.J. remarks that “sometimes books don’t find us until the right time.” and with this one, I can’t agree more. This book certainly found me at the right time, especially as it’s been on my list for a few years.

We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.