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Ellen Skagerberg has commented on (2) products.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Ellen Skagerberg, October 22, 2014

I work in an indie bookstore myself, so how could I NOT like this book?

Well, I didn't, and here's why someone might not like it.

While I was initially charmed by the literary references and the only-slightly-romanticized portrayal of Fikry as an irascible bookstore owner, I had a growing, pernicious feeling that the author was "writing a chick-lit bestseller" rather than making her best attempt at revealing the tender, devious hearts of human beings. It's written for a chick-lit audience, but, like "The Bridges of Madison County," it tries, unsuccessfully, to cast itself in the literary tradition of the classic novels whose names it cites so liberally. The author can't make up her mind if she's in the A.J. Fikry camp with those who need fine literature, or if she wants to skewer those discriminating readers as snobs. The pacing is way off, with heavy-handed foreshadowing, characters who hide vital information for no reason except to have big "reveals" later, and one of the most unrealistic, stock child characters in recent memory.

Usually I don't finish 2- and 3-star books; why bother? But this one was sufficiently clever, plus there were mystery elements to be resolved (since the author sides with "most people," who want clear endings, over Fikry, who doesn't mind ambiguous endings). I kept hoping the book would turn around and stop smirking behind its hands at the gullible readers who will clamor for a feel-good, romantic movie adaptation.

Author Zevin has rather too much in common with her fictional Leon Friedman, the author who is brought in for an (admittedly funny) author reading. Anyway, I liked Fikry a lot more than I liked the book; Fikry himself would have hated this novel. Meta, huh?
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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Ellen Skagerberg, January 2, 2010

I agree with those who feel that Murakami is among our greatest living novelists. This particular book has such poignancy and spiritual whammy that it is always lurking there in my subconscious. Murakami's Zen perspective on existence weasels into one's soul, in a good way, like a Zen koan. A Murakami novel deals head-on with life's gruesome realities but leaves me feeling freer, more connected, more grateful for life and its many inexplicable wonders.

This was the best book I read in the 2000-2009 decade, even though it was released in translation in 1993.
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