Friday, July 01, 2016

The Storied Life of A.J Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin

I'll admit it-I'm a sucker for books about books. Not literary analysis or style guides, mind you. Fictional stories about bookish people, places, or things. So I suppose it's no surprise that I found The Storied Life of A.J Fikry charming and endearing, much like the main character himself.

Fikry's life is getting narrower and narrower all the time. Depressed after the death of his wife, Fikry cuts himself off from his friends and neighbors on Alice Island slowly but surely. His bookstore is doing poorly, and his daily existence mostly consists of brooding in his office, followed by brooding in his apartment alone, except for the bottle of liquor he consumes like it's his job. His friend, Lambiase and his sister-in-law Ismay try to pull him out of himself and back to the world, but Fikry basically doesn't see the point. Even the attractive and persistent book rep, Amelia, who keeps coming to the island determined to make this curmudgeonly client accept at least one of her books.

He thinks things couldn't possibly get any worse, when his most prized possession, a copy of a collection of Poe stories, is stolen. Just when he's about to give up, a surprise package arrives on his doorstep-a baby! In a storyline that is not at all realistic but completely works anyway, he becomes the girl's guardian, and things begin to change for him.

Fikry's character is smart and sarcastic and hilarious. His love of books, and the way in which Zevin writes about them, made me chuckle aloud more than once, despite how hopeless Fikry is for much of the first quarter of the book. Even at his most self-pitying, I couldn't help but like Fikry. Which makes the ending all the more poignant. Zevin was not lazy with this one. All of the plot points are nicely summed up, and while many authors would have stopped at what was definitely one of the happiest points in the story, she didn't. Not only did the novel move past the easy, happy ending, it somehow made the not-as-happy ending into something wonderful. Zevin explores the power of words and stories, and the way that community and family are created in so many different ways.

It probably didn't hurt that this book contains two dreams of mine: island living and owning a bookshop. A bookshop on an island sounds pretty much like heaven to me. So yeah, I was predisposed to love this book. And love it I did, not just because of the bookishness of it all, but because of the heart and soul of this story of love and life and family and power of ideas.

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