Monday, April 7, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Book Review

A book for book lovers.

Halfway through the novel, I turned to my husband with a sigh. "I want to own a bookstore in New England." And he knew exactly what I meant. Because in our early marriage while we were living in New Hampshire we often explored the possibilities of someday owning a bookstore. We had fallen in love with a bookstore in Center Harbor, NH near the lakes where we loved to explore on our then child-free Saturdays. We spent money we didn't have on thick hardback books that caught our attention and imagination and still grace our shelves. We visited with the friendly owner who shared beloved books and we even learned of her political leanings (it was in the middle of the 2000 NH Primaries, after all). Then our first baby was born; we moved back to Utah to be near family and found sensible employment. Yet, the dream has never really left.

A.J. Fikry and his wife Nicole had a similar dream. Alice Island where she grew up didn't have a bookstore, so they abandon their frustrating dissertations to build their own bookstore on the island where they can fully appreciate their love of literature.

The dream has turned into a nightmare for A.J. Fikry. His wife was killed in a tragic car accident and he is left alone to run the bookstore--alone. Sales are down and his only possession of value, a collection of Edgar Allen Poe's poetry is stolen. His cranky personality nearly scares off everyone except the cop that responds to the burglary and his sister-in-law. Then, a mysterious delivery left in his store with just a brief note gives him the will to live and to love again.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is an emotional and cathartic journey of love for literature. A.J. Fikry is an unforgettable character. He's lovable and witty even when he's being surly and sarcastic. It is enjoyable to watch his transformation as he falls in love. His life is also populated with a cast of eccentric and amusing characters who become so familiar, it's hard to believe I haven't actually attended a book club meeting with the other moms at Island Books.

A.J. Fikry may be the book seller by profession, but author Gabrielle Zevin knows how to sell a book. Her words become love letters to various works of literature, inspiring her readers to get lost in their words once again. However, story remains key to this novel. The story of A.J. Fikry is unforgettable. For the first time in a long time, I could not put this book down. I read the majority of the novel in a single day and only saved the ending for the morning because I knew I couldn't handle the emotions that would engulf me at it's conclusion.

With The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin has sung the ultimate love song to beloved books while weaving her own poignant story with her own unforgettable characters.

Surely, I'll see you at Island Books this summer.

Disclosure : there are a number of f-words scattered throughout the novel and an odd misplaced mention of Mormons on the last page.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is published by Algonquin Books in April 2014. It is the She Reads book choice for April. You can read reviews from the other members of She Reads *here*.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**


Beth Hoffman said...

Lovely review! You've sold me, especially when I read this: "For the first time in a long time, I could not put this book down."

Anita LeBeau said...

Wonderful review Cindi, you know I felt the same way. I have always wanted to own a bookstore, I guess we have to play the lottery for me to win big!!