A Place Ain't a Place Without a Bookstore

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Summary of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Garbielle Zevin


A. J. Fikry is a cantankerous independent bookstore owner who wishes to live his life alone in misery after the death of his beloved wife.  His book sales are abysmal, and the only comfort he takes is from the knowledge that he can sell a rare collection of Poe poems in order to stay afloat.  Then, much to his dismay, the book of Poe’s poems is stolen.  A. J. thinks all hope is lost until he discovers a mysterious package left in his bookstore, and its unexpected arrival gives him the chance to begin his life anew.


Review


I purchased The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry during a layover on my trip back from the Dominican Republic.  One of my traveling partners recommended the book to me, and seeing as I enjoyed the last book she suggested (The Rosie Project) I decided to buy it to read on the plane.


This is the type of book that any book lover will find hard to dislike.  Set in a bookstore, the cast of characters are chock full of people who either love to read or learn to enjoy reading through their connections with other characters.  As a person who truly believes there is a book, magazine, blog, newspaper article, etc out there for everyone, I was delighted to read a book with characters who share my passion for the written word.  There were plenty of literary references I recognized sprinkled throughout the novel and still more I was unfamiliar with altogether.  I found myself jotting down book titles and names of short stories to check out as I was reading.


As you may have noticed from my other reviews, I value well-written characters.  The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry did not disappoint.  The main character, A. J., develops throughout the story from a depressed widower with a snooty attitude toward almost all genres save literary fiction to a loving man who broadens his view of literature and life through the people with whom he forms relationships.  I warmed to A. J.’s character just as the people of his community did.


Another character I enjoyed was Amelia “Amy” Loman, a sunny sales representative from Knightley Press publishing who comes to A. J.’s store to sell him books to stock his store.  She is wonderfully optimistic though realistic, and I liked reading about a character who had a bright outlook on life that contrasted with A. J.’s depressed view at the beginning of the book (we could use more people like Amy in the world).  My one bone to pick with Zevin in regard to Amy’s character would be that Amy didn’t seem to have any flaws.


The pacing and plot of the book were well done; each new section of A. J.’s life was introduced by short little reviews A. J. wrote of various short stories.  These reviews further developed A. J.’s character and gave the reader a small preview of what to expect in the forthcoming chapters.


The writing was engaging, although I found the present tense narration a bit jarring when I first began reading.  I’m so used to reading past tense narration that at first I found it difficult to get into the story.  However, after a few pages, I became accustomed to it.  I still prefer past tense narration, but the present tense narration didn’t detract from the overall writing.


In conclusion, I found The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry to be like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day: warm, full of hope, and comforting.  It renewed my love of books and bookstores.  As one of the characters in the book said, “A place ain’t a place without a bookstore.”


Coming Soon

The next book on my list is Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

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