Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Rant: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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.

"You can only live your one tiny life, but with books, you can live thousands more." A quote from Reddit. 

This is a magical book. As I mentioned before I read it, I said if it came anywhere close to Margarettown, it would be high up on my Life Favorites list. It's not as good as Margarettown, but man, does it come damn close. 

I love this kind of book. From the cover, the blurb, and the actual story, the book trumpets itself as one of those heartwarming, literary reads that puts a smile on your face and a tear in your eye. That's what it presents itself as, and sometimes, isn't it refreshing when that's exactly what a book ends up being? In the whimsical journey through the life of an eccentric bookseller and his marvelous, multidimensional friends and family, you really feel what it means to be a reader, a writer, and a lover of books. This is, as many reviewers have noted, is a love letter to book people. It is littered with references to classics and modern bestsellers that any person loiters around bookstores and libraries, hoping to meet the love of their life at these haunts instead of at a sporting event, and getting proposed to with a favorite novel, will not fail to delight in. 

This book is rare. It's hard to put my finger on it, but there are some books that are just written in a way that captures you, that transforms you. Not just enjoying a book or getting caught up in a book. I read a lot of books, and there are many that I deem good and got lost in while reading. But this is a special kind of experience. For the time you are reading, you feel as though you are exploring some magical land--you feel as though you have entered your own Narnia. I can't describe it as well as I would like to. I love those books, and they do not come around nearly often enough. I spend my life looking for them. When I find them, I rarely forget the feeling the book inspires in me. I was enchanted. I was engrossed. It is the feeling of falling in love. For those of us in the know, books and love--they are much of the same thing.

It occurred to me as I was reading, that this was really a book about nothing, a book with a plot that did not matter much, and surprises that did not surprise. You knew where it was going, you could feel it coming to an end. And when it did, it ended as quietly as it began, with little fanfare. A nothing book. But I've rarely read a book with so much heart. It sweeps you away. And at one point, A.J. Fikry asks, perhaps for a brief moment revealing the voice of the ever-lovely and wise Gabrielle Zevin, "Is a twist less satisfying if you know it's coming?"

No, dear readers. It is every bit as satisfying as it promises to be.


  1. I'll definitely be reading this book now after this review! It's been quite some time since you last posted, hope everything is fine :)

  2. Very good explanation about the book. I especially was intrigued when you wrote the comment that the book didn't really need a plot it didn't need surprises.