Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikery


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It’s not fair. 
 
I wanted this book to go on forever. How could it be stolen away after only 7 short hours of becoming part of the Island Books family? I want to spend the rest of my life dusting dust jackets and connecting through words and books, growing old and wiser with A.J., Maya, Amelia, and Lambiase.

I could talk about the plot, but this book isnt about plot. It’s about the entire world of Alice Island and the specific intersection of books, ideas and people known as Island Books. I don't feel like I've listened to a book. It's more like I've visited another reality.

I love books about books, books about bookstores, books about booksellers. And this is one of the best. As any good book about books should do, this one talks about a LOT of books. Fortunately, here is a list of them that could keep us reading for many years  now if A.J. would just come talk to me about all of them.

This is a shining example of what a book can be even without vampires, superpowers, exploding buildings or fifty shades of anything. When a book can make me guffaw as well as feel wiser, more hopeful, as well as brokenhearted when it ends, I think it has earned its five stars.

Other helpful reviews:

Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this novel. A.J. Fikry is the owner of a small, independent bookstore on the small Alice Island in the Northeast. He is cynical, cranky, and depressed...and not without reason. The recent death of his beloved wife has left him a widower at the age of thirty-nine. Their shared love of books seems to have died with his wife and A.J. is left behind with only bitterness.

Enter an absolutely delightful cast of secondary characters who populate the island and A.J.'s life. You're bound to love at least one - if not all - of them.

Next we have the unexpected hope and redemption of A.J. I'm not giving any spoilers here. Yes, it's a feel-good book. But it's more than that: it's a love letter to the power books have in our lives. If you have ever felt changed by a book, this novel will speak to you....you'll "get" it. And if you loved "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" or "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" you'll find lots to love here, as well - not because the plots are similar, but because of the similar feel to the novels that comes from a good cast of eccentric townsfolk, a small community, and a sense of closeness among the characters.
So I'll leave you with this: if you love reading books, do not miss this one. (I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it made into a movie!)

Sigh.

I always find it hard to review books that actually mean something to me. Books that leave a mark. Books that I've fallen in love with. Books that I close with a heavy heart.

It's so easy to rant and rave when you don't like a book. But what do you do when you love it? There's no amount of gushing and praising that I can do here, because it's not that kind of book. This book speaks for itself, and the story tells itself.

A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore on Alice island, called Island Books. He sells books, that's what he does. He's become grumpy, rude and disheartened since the sudden death of his wife and tries to drink himself to oblivion. He does not care much about anything anymore. He does not care about people, he does not even care about himself. He does not care about his store. Sales are dwindling. He treats people with vulgarity bordering on insolence - and Amelia, the publisher's agent who tries to sell him books, is one of those exposed to his irritable behaviour. But on a fateful night, following another fateful night where a rare book worth tons of money is stolen from his bookstore/home, he finds a baby girl left in his store with a note from the mother, telling him among many things that her name is Maya. With this sudden turn of events, Fikry's life, and his outlook on it, begins to change - and Gabrielle Zevin, along with all of her beautifully crafted characters, take us on an unforgettable journey with Fikry and Maya.

This book is about a bookseller, whose books - and Maya - change his life and that of many others. It is a literary, philosophical, love story. One that will take your breath away, and steal your heart. It is as the title says, a collection of stories from A.J. Fikry's life, and the development of his character and that of others is brilliant.

From Fikry, to Amelia, to Maya growing right before your eyes, to officer/captain/lieutenant Lambiase, and every other character that took part in this story - the character development was wonderful. The changes and growth, the unpredictability of every event. My God, when I remember the ride that Zevin took us on, I feel myself itching to grab the book again and reread the whole thing.
This is an unputdownable book. And I certainly did not put it down until the very last page.




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