Title: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Source: from publisher for She Reads Book Club
Summary: I am on a roll with wonderful books that make me cry. This book was beautifully written with well-rounded, believable character and a very enjoyable focus on books.
A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books, has become something of a loner. After his wife’s death, his bookstore is doing poorly and he’s doing his best to push away help from friends and family. However, as A. J. deals with a mysterious package which appears in his store, he slowly realizes that he needs help. Beginning to reach out to others, he begins to change his life and the lives of those around him for the better.
As those of you who’ve been reading my blog lately will know, this book was basically written for me. I love stories where people help each other out and a focus on books is a delightful added bonus. The writing was beautiful and descriptive, immersing me in the locations the author described. She also did a particularly good job describing emotions. Even though the main character is a widower with whom I have little in common except a love of books, I could empathize with him right away. The supporting cast is also well developed, populated with a variety of secondary characters, all of whom have their flaws and their admirable qualities. The characters all had consistent, authentic voices too. I especially appreciated this at the beginning of each chapter where A. J. describes a short story and why he thinks it is worth reading. As I think someone in the book points out, by knowing someone’s reading taste, you can find out a lot about them. For that reason, I felt these bits helped flesh out A. J.’s character in a fantastic way.
I also enjoyed the role books played in the story. I like that A. J. often connects to people and relates to the world through books. He made some funny comments about how his life related to fiction which I particularly enjoyed. I thought the way A. J.’s increasing understanding of people broadened his reading taste was an interesting inversion of the way books can make us more understanding of other people. Obviously as a reader, the message that books and bookstores can become central to a community appealed to me as well. However, for all that I loved the books in this story, I think the characters were what made this book for me. I became very attached to all of them and would happily believe them to be real. The way so many characters had flaws and strengths, hopes and fears made me very invested in the story. The ending, which was a little sad but mostly hopeful, was also a big part of why this was truly a wonderful book.