Monday, February 09, 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was my favorite book of 2014. I just spent the last afternoon rereading it for our book group. It still made me cry, and I still see it as a wonderful book. For those who haven't read the book yet, maybe my original review will entice you. This is a book for those who love books and independent bookstores. Thanks for remembering a book that made it to a number of "Best of" lists for 2014, and topped my favorites list.

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 - I own a copy of the book, and re-read it.

14 comments:

Patricia T said...

I keep reading such good things about this book. I think it's about time I read it, too! :)

Lesa said...

I'm sure it's not for everyone, Patricia. But, it was my favorite of 2014.

Nann said...

Gabrielle Zevin introduced the book at the Author Tea at ALAMW 2014. Much of it appealed to me--the romance, the tragedy, the community-brought-together-by-books, the Tamerlane mystery-- but my librarian self kept screaming, "What about the library? What about the library?" Because on a small island off New England (Martha's Vineyard?) there would be a library. And there was ZERO mention of the library in the book. [Now, there's a plot idea: romance between the town librarian and the town bookseller, part rival, part partner.]

Sandra Weiner said...

I have to say - it was my favorite read too - one that made me smile and made me cry. Love it.

Lesa said...

Oh, that's interesting, Nann. I never once even thought about the library. I was so sunk into the story when I read it. It might have been different if I had heard her talk, and hadn't read the book. When I heard her at the Southern Festival of Books, I had already read it.

Lesa said...

It made me smile and cry the second time I read it, Sandra. That makes it special, since I already knew what was coming.

Kaye Barley said...

okay.
I'm going to have to read it a second time.
One of the loveliest books of all times, IMHO

Lesa said...

Good discussion tonight, Kaye, but only a few people loved it as much as you and I did.

Rosemary said...

Oh I really must get a copy of this book! I meant to when you first reviewed it Lesa, it sounds excellent.

Lesa said...

You should, Rosemary. The people who loved it most last night were connected to libraries in some way. I think you'd like it.

Shirley said...

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry was one of my absolute favourites last year!!! I want to re-read it after reading your post today.

Lesa said...

One of my favorites, too, Shirley, as you can tell! It was just as good the second time.

Mary Barton said...

Our book club also read it, and everyone loved it. A moving book for book lovers. Sad in parts but not maudlin. A lovely tale.

Lesa said...

That' same great description, Mary, sad in parts, but not maudlin.