The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Book Review
The Title Grabs You, Doesn't It?
You wouldn't think a novel about a bookseller who is a real jerk would be all that captivating, now would you? Yet, it's not hard to get involved with the book. First, each chapter starts with what are letters written to someone the writer cares about.
And, then there is the title. Who is A.J. Fikry anyway? You'll soon find out as I tell you about this engrossing story.
A.J. Fikry is not your typical male lead character. In fact, it only takes a few pages before you think that this jerk really doesn't deserve having a story written about him.
It is easy for the reader to dislike A.J. Fikry, obnoxious as he is in the first few pages. He is without redeeming qualities, so self centered, that you wonder why the author would name a book after him--a book described as "wonderful, moving, and endearing" right on the cover. The way he treats the new Knightley Press representative, Amelia Loman, is appalling. She has come in earnest with the season's new book list, but he doesn't really care.
It's almost enough to put the book down there. Who wants to read about a jerk? But, don't. You'll soon learn why.
The Plot Begins
A.J. Fikry is everything I said in the introduction. But, as the story goes along, we soon learn there is a reason for his animosity.
He has recently been widowed and the book store is going bankrupt. His wife, Nic, had the head for business. With no one to ease his pain, he finds himself drinking more and more each evening. A.J. Fikry is falling apart.
One night one of his most prized possession is stolen. When all seems lost, an unexpected gift from a stranger is left at his bookstore. Not only does this gift knock Fikry off his path of self destruction, it affects everyone who walks into his book store and his life. I won't tell you what the gift is because that would just ruin the fun.
Another Person's Opinion
Joan Mackenzie (aka JoansBookReviews on YouTube) gives her review of this stunning novel. It is one of "Joan's Picks".
This book is beautifully written. It is descriptive without being overly detailed. I could picture the book store in Alice perfectly. It is full of quirky characters such as the seemingly clueless and unmotivated Officer Lambiase, the smug, overrated writer Daniel Parrish, and Amelia Loman, the book representative who is described as resembling a dandelion.
It is a short book at 153 pages. But, length is not an indicator of quality. So many books today seem to be written for word count. I find myself coming to whole chapters that could have been deleted and saved the reader 40-50 pages of wasted time. Not so with this work.
Throughout the story I was reminded of the TV show, "The Gilmore Girls". Have you ever seen it? It had the same small town feel. But, what really stood out in that show was the banter between characters. The dialogue was intelligent, witty, and snappy. Zevin's dialogue reminded me so much of it. She is truly gifted in this area. I love how the author used book references throughout the story to describe people and emotions. It was an interesting way to help us understand who the characters are.
One Thing I Didn't Like
The only thing I didn't like about this book is the use of notes before each chapter. I'm one of those readers who loves to be surprised. I never read prologues until after I'm done for that reason. Though it's not blatantly spelled out in the notes, you get a sense of where it's leading.
Top of My List
I considered this to be one of the best books I've read in a long time. The writing style is different than most novels. It's lyrical and flows easily. There is wit to the dialogue. It is well imagined. Zevin has taken ordinary life and turned it into something worth knowing about.
Once I got a couple of chapters in, I came to like A.J. Fikry more than at first. I felt sorry for him and I hoped life would treat him better.
I like when an author can make me feel connected to a character. Even when they are awful, there must be something redeemable about them. Seeing Fikry evolve is what makes this such a good novel.