It’s the easiest thing in the world to guess I will like a romance about two people falling in love because of books, but The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is more than that. In fact, it could be read as an ode to books themselves, about how understanding and appreciating character’s and their fictional adventures can inspire us to make our own. It’s about how we are living stories, so we may as well do what we can to make our life a memorable one.
A.J. Fikry is initially unlikeable. Although his perpetual bad mood is understandable, given that he is a young widower, it’s also very annoying. But Zevin’s book follows his transformation over decades of interactions with an optimistic book seller, an orphaned girl, a friendly police chief, a charming cad of a brother-in-law, and a put-upon sister-in-law. As he slowly opens his heart to others, he finds happiness. It’s the simplest story in the world, but one that needs to be told and retold.
That’s really all that needs to be said, but I’ll leave you with a couple quotes that show how beautifully the lines between fiction and meta-fiction are blurred.
They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?
The words you can’t find, you borrow. We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we’re alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart.
In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books–and booksellers–that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is 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. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. 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. Fikry 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 A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again 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.
Release Date: April 2014