Monday, March 6, 2017

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevrin

Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: I thought this book was a really good read for a couple reasons. First off, I loved the relationship between the main character—the librarian—and his adopted daughter. I don’t want to go into too much detail here because I think it was so fun to discover it (even though a good portion is written on the summary). I think the way they ended up together was fun and perfect for both of them. They deserved each other—and I say that in the best way possible. Secondly, I really loved the support characters in this book. A.J. Fikry is obviously a very troubled man, both with good reason and also just because he’s crabby, but the people around him really make his life better and also enrich the story. I find that often characters in books, as in real life, are surrounded by people that they don’t necessarily deserve (because of the way they treat them), but these people stay anyway and most of the time, in the end, it works out better for both of them. I so appreciate this about people, actually, that they’re willing to put up with someone and all their flaws and love them anyway.

If you have read anything about this book, one thing you will notice right away is that it has tons of quotes listed from it. A.J. Fikry is quite a wise man, and many of the excerpts in the book are the kind of quotes that you would put on a bookmark or write in your journal. One of my favorites was, “But me-also-thinks my latter-day reaction speaks to the necessity of encountering stores at precisely the right time in our lives. Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”

Don’t you just love this quote? I think it is so true. The older I get, the more I can relate to this. For instance, I don’t know if you’ve ever gone back and re-read books that you LOVED as a child, but they don’t always strike you the same way. I used to tell everyone that A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books. I went back and re-read it a few years ago and…I thought it was the weirdest thing ever. Seriously. I had no idea what was going on and I didn’t like the characters and I thought it was just dumb. Sorry, Ms. L’engle. It just wasn’t my thing. However, I remember being so touched by it when I was younger and found it really profound. I’m not sure why I thought that or what about it I really liked, but I loved it. To me, this is an obvious example of a book coming at just the right time and changing me in a way then that could never be replicated at another time in my life. And truly there is never a greater connection to a book or a story than when it comes at precisely the right time in our lives. Indeed this is why I find it hard to judge people about the books they love. Stories and books strike us in different ways at different times in our lives. Who am I to judge what story someone loves when I don’t know the truth about their situation right now in their life? And who knows what that story had in it that that person needed right at that time? Don’t worry, I do a fair amount of judging for those who read [what I consider to be] ridiculous. But really. I should be more tolerant.  

I think this is a very wise book about people trying to make the best of situations that varied from troublesome to downright tragic. There was happiness too, though, of course, and I think this book did a good job of addressing both the good and the bad and putting it into perspective.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language in this book, and I’m always a little shocked when the “F—“ word comes up at what I feel to be unnecessary times. 

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