The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin (2014)

Romance, sorta
The Storied Life of A.J. FikryA.J. Fikry is an irascible bookstore owner eking out a living on an East Coast island, grieving the loss of his wife and dousing the pain with alcohol. He pushes everyone away, including his sister-in-law and especially publisher reps who annoy him with fall lists and advance reading copies of trashy fiction. None can compare to the perfection of the short story, he asserts, a position reinforced by his serendipitous discovery of an incredibly valuable first edition of Poe’s early short stories. One evening, he passes out with the book in hand, only to wake up and discover the book is gone. Resigned to the loss, he nonetheless reports the theft, thus initiating a friendship with the local police chief who is not much of a reader. When a baby is abandoned in the bookstore, A.J.’s life changes in every possible way. I was reminded of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – the personal journey of a man who discovers that life and love are there for the taking. It’s a touching story that avoids saccharineness with some enjoyably flawed and authentic characters. It moved too quickly at times, and the ending was both, for me, abrupt and too well tied-up. However, Zevin had a lot of fun with this novel, I suspect! She skewers YA literature more than once, including one scene (p. 89) in which A.J. tosses aside a galley of a rejected story that describes Zevin’s own novel Elsewhere perfectly : “Ugh, A.J. thinks. Two of his least favorite things (postmortem narrators and young-adult novels) in one book.” Chapters open with A.J.’s notes on books he is recommending to his daughter, and a book central to the plot is so well described I had to check if it was real (it isn’t) and found this great list of books that appear in this novel.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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