Friday, May 2, 2014

My take on: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Sometimes when I read a book and I'm not quite sure where it's going I give up. But sometimes, I keep going. The end of each chapter reveals another layer about the characters. Sometimes I'm disappointed with the ending, but sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.

With The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, I was pleasantly surprised!

A quirky book about a quirky bookseller who loves books? In my opinion, that's often a recipe for success.

When it comes to books, A.J. Fikry is a bit of a snob. He's more likely to read books by F. Scott Fitzgerald than James Patterson. After the recent death of his wife, he feels a closer connection to books than people. I can totally understand that. I'm not a hermit, but sometimes I would rather read a book over anything else.

A.J. is set in his ways. He is pulling away from all the people in his life, including his sister-in-law, Ismay, and Officer Lambiase, a friend and fellow bookworm. Why pull away from people when his business is all about people? Island Books, the only bookstore located in a small island town, is financially-strapped and people are essential to his business. Sales rep Amelia Loman tries her best to get A.J. excited about the upcoming books in her catalog, but his shell is just too tough to crack. After just one trip, Amelia wonders if her passion is wasted on a stubborn man like A.J.

After a long day, A.J. retreats to his small apartment above the store and drowns himself in alcohol. It's during one of those drunken stupors that A.J.'s life changes forever. His prized copy of a rare and valuable Edgar Allan Poe is stolen. Tamerlane, a legendary work by Poe, held a special place in his heart. He might have never sold it, but he liked to look at it and admire it. Maybe life will go on without it. Soon after the theft a special delivery arrives for A.J. What is it? Or who is it?

I don't think it's a spoiler by saying this next part because it happens early in the book. Who or what could force a stubborn, middle-aged widower out of his funk? If you think hard, I'm sure you could guess. A.J. is hardly ever around children, but a toddler named Maya will change everything he thought he knew about himself and the world. Maya brings A.J. out of his shell. He starts to have faith in people again. Life has more meaning and purpose. Even Amelia starts to notice a change, A.J. is finally willing to listen to her. He even starts to see the woman behind the quirky clothes.

There is a lot to love about this book, but it really took me until the end of the book to get it. Each chapter begins with a critique on some of the books A.J. has read. I wasn't sure what the point of that was -- until I got to the last 40-50 pages. I can't tell you what that is because that would spoil the book. But at the end, everything made sense. The book unfolded just as it should -- and I was pleasantly surprised!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin Books). The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was the April book club selection for She Reads. 

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