Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

It's surprising I put off reading this book for so long. It's right up my alley. But I like to read books for my book club right before we discuss them (I have a terrible memory) and I knew it was going to be on one of my book clubs' lists (it turns out both of them have picked it!)

A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore on a tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts. He had bought it with his wife, who died. Since then he's been lonely and grumpy. His beloved and wildly expensive copy of Edgar Allen Poe's "Tamerlane" is stolen. He drinks heavily. One day, a small child is found in his store, along with a note that the mother would like her daughter to grow up in a bookstore. Of course, this changes Fikry's life. He adopts her and his outlook on life improves.

Multiple secondary characters fill out the story, with Fikry's sister in law and her husband (an author), the local town sheriff, a publisher sales rep, and a few others who enrich and expand Fikry's life, and who change much themselves over the 16+ years the book covers. The author does sometimes necessarily skip large chunks of time to cover that much ground in a short book. (It took me about 3 hours to read.) And the ending is very tidy, almost too much so. But the book is overall delightful and very bookish and charming.

I will say though that as a light beach-read type of book, it didn't stand up well to the scrutiny of book club. Some gaps and other flaws were pointed out that I can't unsee. That said, I will still highly recommend it. But I am not looking forward to when my other book club also discusses it in a couple of months (sigh).

I bought this book at Quail Ridge Books & Music, an independent bookstore in Raleigh.

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