Hanging over the porch of the tiny New England bookstore called Island Books is a faded sign with 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. 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. 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 him or for a determined sales rep named Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light. The wisdom of all those books again become the lifeblood of A.J.’s world and everything twists 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. – Goodreads
Every once in awhile a book comes along that makes you stop in your tracks. It makes you look around at the world you’re living in and appreciate the small things you normally don’t even notice.
This was one such book. It isn’t a happy one, per se. It deals with loss – of love, of family, and of one’s will to put effort into life. But it is one of those rare books that, while dealing with weighty topics, manages to do so with levity and humour.
I found myself effortlessly drawn into and carried along by the story. The writing was masterful; words chosen with care, passages I wanted to highlight on every other page, and just a hint of magical realism that made the realistic characters and plot shimmer ever so slightly.
Though full of emotional depth, this is not a complex book. It does not get mired in detail. And while for some this may take away from its credibility, for me it was this that created such an enjoyable read. It’s not a long book – only 258 pages. But that was all it needed to build a world that completely ensnared me.
I thought a lot about what to tell you guys about the plot of this book, but in the end I decided it’s much better if you discover it on your own. Suffice it to say that there is heartache, there is the discovery of love, there are copious literary references that made me smile with recognition and characters I fell completely in love with, despite (or possibly because of) their very real faults. I found such a rich world here, and it is one I’m sure I’ll re-visit time and again in the coming years.
I loved this book so much that once I’d finished it, I immediately began searching for other books by this author. And I purchased two that sounded interesting – though honestly I would have bought a book about someone fixing their garborator if it was by this woman. She’s that good.
If you’re looking for a little magic and cock-eyed optimism, you need to read this book.
Some of my favourite quotes:
“And yet… He had spent hours with the man over the last half-dozen years. They had only ever discussed books, but what, in this life, is more personal than books?”
“In the future he will rethink his unlocked door policy. Though it had occurred to him that something might be stolen, he had never considered the possibility that something might be left.”
“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, what is your favourite book?”
“Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time.”
“A place is not really a place without a bookstore.”
And, of course:
“No man is an island. Every book is a world.”
I recommend this book to: Anyone who enjoys quirky romanticism, books about books/readers and found families.
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Published By: Viking Canada
Released: April 1, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Family
Other books by this author: The Hole We’re In (adult), Margarettetown (adult), Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (YA), Elsewhere (YA), In the Age of Love and Chocolate (YA), Because It Is My Blood (YA), All These Things I’ve Done (YA)
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