Sunday, May 18, 2014
Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor's notes.
Quick non-spoilery summary:
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a charming tale of a widowed middle-aged independent bookstore owner, A. J. Fikry, who one day finds something rather unexpected in his bookstore. The book is framed by a short story collection that A. J. is compiling, and each chapter opens with a different short story title and a brief description along with A. J.'s thoughts on the story. Surrounding A. J. are a fun cast of characters including his ex-sister-in-law, Ismay; Ismay's husband, Daniel; the publishing house representative, Amelia Loman; and the police chief, Lambiase.
This is my first Gabrielle Zevin book. Although she is probably best known for her YA novels, Storied Life is an adult novel. It was an enjoyable read. I particularly liked the characterizations (Lambiase!) and the setting, a small independent bookstore on an island off the coast of Massachusetts that is only accessible by ferry. (I want to go there and sit on the beach and read all the books.)
I also liked the bookishness of it. It is set in a bookstore. The characters read books. There are also a couple writers. There is an author event. There are short stories. It oozes books. But most especially, it captures the way that books can bring people together.
I did have one small problem. I have a few bookish pet peeves, and well, this book contained one of them. And I sighed. And it was okay. But. So there's that.
All in all a quaint and charming book.
If you like The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, you might also like The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book? (p.87)
We read to know we're not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.
My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart.
We are not quite novels.
The analogy he is looking for is almost there.
We are not quite short stories. ...
In the end, we are collected works. (p.249)