If a reader is lucky, once or twice a year a book comes along that truly touches the heart. Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry might be one of those books this year for a number of us. A bookstore, discussion of books, a changed life, a child and romance. It's all wrapped up in a story that, despite tears, has a perfect ending.
Amelia Loman's first visit to Alice Island and Island Books couldn't have been called a success. The publisher's rep had to break the bad news to A.J. Fikry, a very eccentric bookstore owner with unusual taste in books, that the previous publisher's rep had died. But, she did leave behind a book she loved, even though Fikry wasn't interested. He was already on the way to disaster. He was drinking too much, and, one night, lost the most valuable book he possessed. His actions in failing to lock up cost him dearly, but also changed his life. The curmudgeon was forced to call the police, bringing Chief Lambiase into his life. And, then, because he had nothing to lose, he continued to leave the bookstore unlocked, only to find a two-year-old left there one day. Maya had been left by her mother whose note said, "I want her to grow up to be a reader. I want her to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things." With A.J. Fikry?
I can't spoil the book by revealing more. But book lovers will appreciate the discussions of books, including Fikry's idiosyncratic opinions of books which open each chapter. There's humor in the growing popularity of the bookstore and book clubs, almost in spite of A.J. Fikry. The characters are wonderful. As much as I loved Fikry, Maya, and Amelia, it was Lambiase that won my heart. And, the relationships are old-fashioned, and perfect for this book, just as the ending is quiet, and perfect.
Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a love letter to bookstores, a story about possibilities, and a story about being open to life. It might be A.J. Fikry's life story, but it's so much more. If you love books and bookstores, this book just might be one of those treasures that touches you this year.
Gabrielle Zevin's website is www.gabriellezevin.com
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Algonquin Books. 2014. ISBN 9781616203214 (hardcover), 272p.
FTC Full Disclosure - A friend lent me a copy of the book.