Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When A.J. Fikry’s beloved wife dies after a few short years of marriage, he continues their labor of love, a small bookstore on Alice Island, though bitterness and resentment has seeped in. But what A.J. doesn’t realize is that two women—one a rep for a small press and the other a baby abandoned in his store—will change his life forever, in irrevocable ways.
An absolutely delightful book about books, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will draw you in with its wonderfully written characters and emotional resonance.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a member of that small subgenre of novels that is about the love of books. While there are many books that can profess to contain a love of the written word, this book takes it one step farther. This small but ambitious novel is about nothing less than the power of books to change a person’s life; when the novel begins A.J. Fikry is a cold, lonely soul who loses himself in drink every night, unable to cope with his wife’s death. But it’s through books, and the people that they bring into his life, that he finds healing. This is definitely a feel-good novel, but that doesn’t mean it’s trite or cliched. No, in fact, this book is a delight in every sense of the word.
A.J. (or Ajay) Fikry is half-Indian, and I can’t begin to tell you what joy that brought me while reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I enjoy reading books about minorities (especially when they’re the same kind as me!), but sometimes I get tired of “cultural stories.” A character in a book should be able to be a minority (with all the richness that implies) without the book having to be about them being a minority, if that makes sense. Yes, Fikry discusses sometimes feeling like an outsider, but the book isn’t about him being half-Indian. It’s about so many other wondrous things; the main character just happens to not be White. I really wish this would happen more often in fiction, and I’m so glad Zevin made this choice.
The reader follows the character of A.J. over the course of years, seeing how he grows and changes because of the influence of books. It’s wonderful character development, and it really draws the reader into the story emotionally. This is a book you may have to put down multiple times while reading, just because it can be overwhelming. The people that populate this book become friends, rather than mere words on a page; the ups and downs of Fikry’s life will have you alternatively laughing and crying.
If you’re a book lover, then The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry should absolutely be on your list. It’s a small book that will go fast, but it’s worth every second you spend with it. You may find yourself deliberately slowing your pace, trying to savor every second you spend with these characters. The little bookstore on Alice Island might just begin to feel like a second home, a cozy place to return to again and again when you need an escape from the world.