The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was not on my radar at all until my sister brought it to my attention. (Yay sisters!) She loved it and thought I would too. (I did!) It’s a contemporary fiction title sure to have crossover appeal to YA fans. If you love bookstores and books (and I assume you do!) then you will love this story about the life of an independent bookseller.
Book: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Hardcover 260 pages, on sale April 1, 2014
By the Book:
Jacket Copy – A.J. Fikry is the owner of Island Books. He recently lost his wife, and now is struggling in his personal and business life. His prize collection of Poe poems was stolen, and books are slow to move off the shelves. He torments the new Knightley Press sales rep, and drowns his sorrows in drink. All of a sudden, a 2-year old girl arrives at the shop with a note from the mother who abandoned her, changing A.J.’s life overnight.
The Book Biz – Most of this book takes place in A.J.’s bookstore, Island Books, since A.J. lives right upstairs. (Wouldn’t that be awesome, book lovers?) There are so many great bookish details to be found in this novel, from A.J.’s book reviews at the beginning of the chapters, to book club discussions, to print vs. digital debates. (Btw, DON’T bring your e-reader to Island Books, or heaven forbid gift one to A.J.) I’m sure anyone who has worked with books will get a kick out of this book.
Bookseller Blues – A.J. has quite a journey in his Storied Life. At the start he’s cranky (understandably) about his poor sales, and devastated at the loss of his wife. Things start to happen that open him up to the possibility of love, and with that brings other unexpected positive changes. The book community of Island Books can’t help but feed off A.J.’s new outlook, and sales pick up.
Supporting characters – A few standouts are:
- Chief Lambiase – The endearing Lambiase meets A.J. once the baby (Maya) arrives , and he keeps tabs on A.J. over the years. I just loved this character. He didn’t used to read much, but starts buying books during his frequent visits to the store. He graduates from mass-market bestsellers to A.J.’s recommended reads. He even has a soft spot for YA, and eventually leads his own book club (Chief’s Choice) at Island Books, which I would totally join.
Maya – Maya grows up in a bookstore – how cool is that? She’s very precocious, and reads everything she can get her hands on. She’s an old soul and saves A.J. as much as he saves her.
- Amelia – Amelia is the new Knightley Press sales rep. She’s heard that A.J. is a tough sell but she does her homework, and eventually A.J. notices. They bond over a very special book, and that plays out in a surprising way, with a very humorous author’s event at the store. Their romance is sweet but doesn’t overpower the book.
Alice Island – The book setting is Alice Island, which is a Nantucket type of locale. It’s a touristy place that gets most of its business in the summer, so it’s hard to keep Island Books afloat year round.
Book Club – There could easily be an A.J. Fikry book club to read all the books mentioned in this book! A.J.’s short story reviews at the beginning of the chapters alone are a story within a story.
Plot Twists – A.J. Fikry’s story is bittersweet, and there are some surprising reveals over the course of the book.
Blurb – The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an unconventional love story and tribute to the printed word. If you love books in general you will love this one.
Book Tour – Gabrielle Zevin lives right here in Los Angeles and is currently on tour to promote A.J. Fikry! Catch her if you can at a bookstore near you. There’s also a nationwide phone-in event April 7 you can participate in by signing up here.
I received a review copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry from Algonquin Books via Netgalley, and no bribes of Poe’s very rare Tamerlane, e-readers or other book swag were exchanged. (Oh, and I bought a copy too (from an independent bookstore!) – A.J. Fikry would approve)