The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is a book about a bookseller on a remote island, and how books affect his life and the life of those surrounding him.
AJ Fikry is a snobby bookseller with very particular tastes and a dismal, alcohol-steeped attitude on life. His wife, whom he started the bookshop with, has recently passed away in a tragic accident, leaving AJ depressed and ready to hang it all up. When his prized possession, the possession that will allow his early retirement, is stolen, and he finds a mysterious gift left in his bookshop, his life turns around.
The book is told in present tense, which I didn’t love but didn’t hate, and the story follows AJ’s life from right before the item was stolen up until his death. Each chapter starts out with a short story recommendation and a letter written by AJ (to whom the reader discovers later), and the chapter relates in some way to that short story or letter. I’m not a big fan of life-spanning stories, which act as more of vignettes in the characters’ lives rather than an actual eventful story. And yes, this is the STORIED LIFE of AJ, but I wanted more story than just life.
The book acts more as a picture of the effect of the mysterious gift on AJ and the people in the remote island town, as well as the bookstore, but there isn’t that much that actually happens besides just life. It is mostly empty of typical melodrama, but I wasn’t a fan of the ending, and I didn’t feel like it was the best way to end the novel (or AJ’s life). If it had to be that way, I would’ve liked to see more of the internal dilemma he went through rather than the quick gloss over the reader gets.
As far as the characters, I found some of the supporting characters (Ismay and Lambiase, in particular) to be more compelling and fleshed-out characters than some of the so-called important characters of Amy and even, at times, AJ and Maya.
That being said, I did enjoy the novel. It was a quick and easy read (if somewhat flat because of the simple and almost-stinted writing style), and I found the characters likable enough, even if I didn’t find myself totally invested in them.
As a connoisseur and lover of literature and reading, I also enjoyed the literary elements of the book, the references to books and writing and the world of publishing, and the effects of books on these characters (particularly Lambiase).