Published: April 1, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Postal Book Club
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.
Some books are just more "bookish" than others. I know that sounds crazy--how can books be more or less bookish?--but it is true. This is a book for people who love books, and who understand the power of literature.
A.J. Fikry is a prickly fellow when we first meet him, still reeling from the death of his wife several years earlier, and determined to drink himself to death. Then, things change and, due to circumstance, he begins to let a few more people into his life. I liked that A.J. was rather prickly when we first met him and, even though his life circumstances change dramatically, he still maintains a bit of that prickliness. Too often, characters make an unrealistic transformations where they go from angry, bitter, what have you to bundles of joy and rainbows. A.J. is not like that....he is who he is.
I loved the fictional island of Alice. Zevin created a quaint town and brought it to life without going all Lake Wobegon on it (Lake Wobegon is great, but a town as "full" of that would not have worked there). There were a few "townsfolk" who were brought into the main narrative, which was just enough for a novel of this scope.
I was immediately sucked into the narrative in a way where I was happy to just go along with what has happening,so I didn't think too much about what was coming next in the plot. Because of that, I personally didn't find the plot predictable, but I can't speak for others.
There were a couple minor things that bugged me. Some of the time jumps were just a bit too long for my tastes. I would have preferred more time jumps of less time that less time jumps of greater time. There was also a character, who was set up to be a major player, that was cut out of the plot rather abruptly and, in my opinion, in a clumsy manner.
Still, these complaints are minor and they don't change the fact that this is one of the most enjoyable books I've read all year. I would recommend it to any reader.
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.