The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

FikryA. J. Fikry is an irascible bookseller in Alice, an island community located off the coast of Massachusetts.  Island Books is his establishment and reflects his narrow and demanding tastes in books.  A. J.’s business demeanor is curt, and when a new sales rep from Knightly Books comes calling, it’s a very tense meeting.

A. J. has his reasons for the way he is –  he is a widower in his late thirties.  His deceased wife was the life of the bookshop that they started together, and in her absence, business has been lacking.  He barely interacts with the community, and most of his customers think A. J. is stuck-up.

His lackluster existence changes abruptly when a valuable book of his goes missing and a two-year-old girl is left in the bookshop with a note from the mother, requesting that A. J. take care of the child.

And so, antisocial A. J., with limited people skills and no parenting abilities, learns how to be a dad – and strangely enough, succeeds, with lots of help from the community.  A. J. learns what readership is, in a much bigger way than his own, and his floundering little bookshop becomes a success and a go-to place in town as book clubs start forming and A. J. expands his merchandise.

The sales rep from Knightly Books also finds her own business with Island Books picking up, and not just from book orders.  Amelia Loman – sales rep, unlucky with dates, goofy and lovely in equal measure – finds that first impressions don’t always define future love.

I would put The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry in the “sweet little book” category.  There’s lots of feel-good sentiment here.  My biggest fear when beginning the book was the potential for clichés.  There is some here, but this doesn’t overwhelm the flow of the book.  For the most part, the writing is fresh, and funny in lots of places.

There’s also tragedy.  You’ll deal with this early on, and there’s more to come – this gives some gravity to an otherwise light-hearted narrative.

The author begins each chapter with a short story commentary from A. J. (short stories are his weaknesses).  If you like short stories in general, these might set you off in other reading directions.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

 

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