5.18.2014

The Sunday Review: THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY - Gabrielle Zevin


Hanging over the porch of the tiny New England bookstore called Island Books is a faded sign with the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

 A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming him or for a determined sales rep named Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light. The wisdom of all those books again become the lifeblood of A.J.’s world and everything twists into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving,
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read and why we love. - Goodreads


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Every once in awhile a book comes along that makes you stop in your tracks. It makes you look around at the world you're living in and appreciate the small things you normally don't even notice.

This was one such book. It isn't a happy one, per se. It deals with loss - of love, of family, and of one's will to put effort into life. But it is one of those rare books that, while dealing with weighty topics, manages to do so with levity and humour.

I found myself effortlessly drawn into and carried along by the story. The writing was masterful; words chosen with care, passages I wanted to highlight on every other page, and just a hint of magical realism that made the realistic characters and plot shimmer ever so slightly.

Though full of emotional depth, this is not a complex book. It does not get mired in detail. And while for some this may take away from its credibility, for me it was this that created such an enjoyable read. It's not a long book - only 258 pages. But that was all it needed to build a world that completely ensnared me.

I thought a lot about what to tell you guys about the plot of this book, but in the end I decided it's much better if you discover it on your own. Suffice it to say that there is heartache, there is the discovery of love, there are copious literary references that made me smile with recognition and characters I fell completely in love with, despite (or possibly because of) their very real faults. I found such a rich world here, and it is one I'm sure I'll re-visit time and again in the coming years.

I loved this book so much that once I'd finished it, I immediately began searching for other books by this author. And I purchased two that sounded interesting - though honestly I would have bought a book about someone fixing their garborator if it was by this woman. She's that good.

If you're looking for a little magic and cock-eyed optimism, you need to read this book.

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Some of my favourite quotes:


"And yet... He had spent hours with the man over the last half-dozen years. They had only ever discussed books, but what, in this life, is more personal than books?"

"In the future he will rethink his unlocked door policy. Though it had occurred to him that something might be stolen, he had never considered the possibility that something might be left."

"You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, what is your favourite book?"

"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time."

"A place is not really a place without a bookstore."

And, of course:


"No man is an island. Every book is a world."

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I recommend this book to: Anyone who enjoys quirky romanticism, books about books/readers and found families.

Book Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Series: No
Edition: Hardcover
Published By: Viking Canada
Released: April 1, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Family
Pages: 258
Date Read: April 22-26, 2014
Rating: 9/10
Other books by this author: The Hole We're In (adult), Margarettetown (adult), Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (YA), Elsewhere (YA), In the Age of Love and Chocolate (YA), Because It Is My Blood (YA), All These Things I've Done (YA)

7 comments :

  1. I've never heard of this book before, but there's something about books that capture the beauty of grief and human emotion that just speak to me. I don't read too many of them, too, so when I do, they stay with me. Clearly, this is one I need to pick up - soon! Lovely review! :)

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    1. I would say this book does exactly that (and well put!). I have been reading mostly YA over the past year, but this book.... well, it was a very, very pleasant surprise. I really recommend reading it before reading too much about it - I went into it with little in the way of expectations, which I think made it all that much sweeter. Thank you and thanks for stopping by! :)

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  2. this sounds pretty damn good tbh, and if you have it a 9.5 it must be near flawless, I'll have to put it on my TBR list so thank you for putting it on my radar :)

    also, I've tagged you in The Book Blogger Test survey :)

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    1. I really enjoyed it - but that isn't to say it's everyone's cup of tea. I think I liked the whimsical tone of it, and I also find that books about books and readers tend to strike a stronger chord with me. So that is probably what bumped it up to a 9.5 for me. If it had been about a character who worked in a hardware store or something I don't know if it would have had quite the same impact. There is just something about book lovers that makes them feel like they're already my friend, if you know what I mean. Well, of course you do - it's why we're friends!! But if that sounds like your kind of thing, then definitely give it a try!

      Thanks - going to check it out now! :)

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    2. I know what you mean, honestly. I just finished reading Between the Lines
      by Jodi Picoult and her daughter, and I loved it from start to finish because it was about a book lover (same with Fangirl haha)
      I know that it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it honestly sounds really beautiful so either it is or you've just done a really good job at reviewing it, either way hopefully I wont have to wait too long to find out :)
      oh I will, believe me haha

      your welcome, its something I only really heard of today, but when it came to tagging 5 people I thought you would probably like to do it too :)

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    3. Well, I'm glad my powers of persuasion are working on ya! ;) Seriously though, I think if you enjoy books about readers, this will be one you'll get into. It's a slower plot than YA, but I still found it really easy to get into and read.

      I started working on my post for the Book Blogger Test - should have it up in the next few days! :)

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    4. haha your powers of persuasion always work on me ;).
      It doesn't bother me that its not YA book, in fact I think that's what I'll like the most about it. When I was younger I read anything I could get my hands on, be it YA books or adult or even real life story's that made me cry my eyes out. I actually read more adult books at the age of 15-20 than YA books, its only in the last 5 years that I'll I really read is those types. Have been meaning to get back to adult books for a while now, I think because of the amount of books I read its rare for me to find a book now that has a storyline I cant predict.

      haha wicked, looking forward to seeing it :)

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