Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mini-Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry 

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Rating: 4 Stars
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.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is, upon further reflection, the type of deceptively crafted title I absolutely love to devour on a rainy spring afternoon. Everything from the brief book reviews which preface its every chapter to the odd little details the author sprinkles within the opening pages of the novel--only to re-introduce them in miraculous means towards the end of the story--are utterly charming, delightful, and more than a little engaging. Fikry's book reviews not only introduce subtle events in every chapter to come, but they are written from the future as the story struggles to catch up to his current timeline, a method which works to perfection, crafted and re-crafted by Zevin throughout the course of the book. 

It's difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what it is about this novel that just works. Is it the quaint little bookstore in a tiny off-the-coast island, inhabited by citizens whose lives are extraordinary in their ordinariness? Or is it the transformation of A.J. Fikry, a rather aloof widowed bookstore owner whose life changes the day baby Maya shows up on his doorstep? Or, perhaps, it is simply that Zevin writes her contemporary title in the tone of magical realism, introducing even the simplest of emotions such as love or hope or happiness as pure magic. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry isn't a sugar-coated tale, though--for the most part--it appears so. Yet, it is the minuscule sprinkles of sorrow and grounded reality in a tale of love and redemption that, ultimately, make this a journey to remember, no matter how many times it is read.

18 comments:

  1. I'm so glad to see that you liked this one, Keertana! I have been watching this book for a while now, just waiting for the perfect time to give it a try. Within a couple of days both you and Carrie (@onebookishmom) have both spoken positively about it, which makes me really excited. I love the cover and I love the description. I also love this author. I think perhaps I should pick it up sooner rather than later. Thanks for this little mini review! It was perfect.

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  2. This was such a surprise for me when I read it last spring. I loved AJ's honesty, and how everything he does is done in a very concise, calculating manner. I also loved Maya. She was such a delight! Glad you loved this one, Keertana!

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  3. I love that this just worked for you. It is hard to describe these reads sometimes but I completely understand what you mean about it.
    I want to add this to my TBR pile now as well. :)
    Great review!

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  4. I could totally see myself reading this

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  5. Sometimes the reasons why it worked for you are less important than the fact that it worked, you know? Definitely going to give this a try - it sounds so engaging and clever! :D Beautiful review Keertana. :)

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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  6. I totally agree! I thought it was a really well done book and could def see why people love it so much.

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  7. I don't think I've even seen this before now, but it sounds absolutely wonderful! Magical realism of this type, even if it isn't strictly magical realism, a small island, such a wonderful way of building the story and bringing it to a conclusion... I have no choice but to read this asap.

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  8. This sounds like dreamy read. Love your review.

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  9. Sounds lovely! I've heard of this one and I was curious; I think I need to check it out.

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  10. Oh this one really calls to me. I haven't heard of it so thanks for putting it on my radar. ..."extraordinary in their ordinariness. Love that! :D

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  11. Keertana this book sounds like all kind of awesome, I'm all for books that you can snuggle up with on a rainy day. I think to experience Zevin's gorgeous writing soon! Lovely review!

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  12. I love the sound of this! I'm an absolute sucker for stories set in and around bookshops, and I'm thrilled there is a magical realism feel to the prose too. Lovely review Keertana!

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  13. This is definitely not my typical read Keertana, but sometimes I need to be pushed outside my comfort zone, and with this book I don't think I'd be disappointed! Lovely, lovely review!

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  14. I haven't heard of this one but the title itself is appealing. Books that you devour during rainy days are the best kind. Great review, Keertana :)

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  15. I haven't been to visit you in forever! I apologize for that. I can barely write reviews, let alone visit others. UGH. I need to get back on track. I just finished The Mime Order and cannot wait to discuss it whenever you get a chance to read.

    Anyway, I agree with everything you said in this review. I love the way you can write a short review that perfectly captures a book. That is a skill indeed. I especially love the way you talk about the magical realism feel to the story, which I didn't think about, but so true. This story was so sweet but it also made me ache as well. I loved getting to know A.J. and the people and stories that made his life full.

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  16. It's interesting to have so many things mixed in one story. It's the first time I hear about it but you intrigued me. Many little things in it to discover! thanks for the review!

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  17. This sounds lovely! I haven't read a Zevin novel yet, but all of her novels seems to be interesting. This one sounds simplistic. Great review!

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  18. Did you know that you can shorten your urls with Shortest and get money for every visit to your short urls.

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