[I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]
It has been said before and I’ll say it again: Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is truly a novel for book sellers and book lovers. Widowed and generally down on his luck, it seems like A.J. Fikry has nothing to comfort him but his bookstore and the books that lie within it. When his rare volume of Poe poems gets stolen it seems like there really is no hope for him. But then a package is left in his bookstore and his life is changed forever…
Fikry has a tendency to be a grumpy and crotchety man, as evidenced by his interaction with Amelia, a sales rep from Kightley Press who comes to his bookstore to present him with some upcoming titles. He is unnecessarily unpleasant towards her and practically shoos her away. Yet, there is something intriguing about this guarded character. Even though he is rude and judgmental, his fierce loyalty to the books he loves is an endearing quality and the omniscient narration helps position him as a sympathetic character. Yes, Fikry is a flawed man, but who isn’t?
The turning point comes when Fikry finds the package that is left for him at the bookstore. The way he deals with the unsolicited “gift” is heartwarming and charming. This is when his character truly begins to grow and evolve. This part of the story really sucks you in and I found myself becoming really invested. The package brings to Fikry a new life – one that allows him to step out of his loneliness and into the world again.
What I enjoyed about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was that it gave each of its main characters development and room to grow. Most of the characters we meet come with a back story and it really helps explain their motivations, making them feel rounded and real rather than mere plot devices. I loved meeting the various residents of Alice Island. Lambiase in particular was a stand-out for me. Costco, anyone?
The only bone I have to pick with this book is its ending. For a book that seems so self-aware at times I was hoping for something more. That being said, the rest of the story was very strong, so I was not overly bothered by the way it ended. This is a book about love, life, and loss and it stayed true to that right till the end. Its strong connection to books makes it an enchanting read and it was a delight watching Fikry develop. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is relatively short (being just under 300 pages) but it kept me entertained the whole way through with its wit and charm. Prepare to find yourself chuckling at the various characters’ quirks and nod your head in agreement with the things they have to say about the joy of reading. This is a book about people who love books and if you happen to be a book lover as well, you won’t be disappointed with this light-hearted ode to reading.
Verdict: Cute, heart-warming book about book lovers and book sellers. A quick, endearing read.
Read if: You love books (like me!), enjoy books with well-developed characters, like being pleasantly surprised again and again.
Will you be picking up The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry? Let me know what you think!