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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

by

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Cover

ISBN13: 9781616203214
ISBN10: 1616203218
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

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Staff Pick

Zevin's novel is a delight! A. J. Fikry is a bitter man, and it bleeds into his chosen profession of bookselling. Then you watch this sad man transform into a bookseller of passion as love impacts his life. It's funny and quietly powerful, and it will move you to tears.
Recommended by Kathi, Powells.com

A. J. Fikry, proprietor of Island Books — an irascible, unpleasant sort of fellow — suffers the theft of his prized copy of Tamerlane: a book so rare, it has recently sold for $400,000. Yes, he left the door unlocked. Shortly thereafter, a baby is abandoned in his bookstore, with pleas to Fikry to raise the baby surrounded by literature. Fikry suffers from epilepsy. Hmmmm, this is sounding a bit familiar, eh?

This book is a lovely nod to George Eliot's classic Silas Marner, about an unlikable epileptic who loses his money after leaving his door unlocked, and then raises a baby he finds. See?

Hilarious (and particularly fun for anyone working in the book field), this is laugh-out-loud funny. Until it isn't. Then it's sweetly sad and sort of heartbreaking. But, this quirky and smart, book-filled ride is "unputdownable" (sometimes this is the only descriptor that works, despite how much of a cliché it is), and you will love Zevin's breezy but poignant style. Fikry's own shelf-talkers are an amusing diversion throughout (and a great lesson in how not to write a shelf-talker).
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.

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. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island — from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he 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, though large in weight — an 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 A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world. Or for everything to twist again 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.

Review:

"The only thing that's 'storied' in the life of A.J. Fikry, a curmudgeonly independent bookseller, in this funny, sad novel from Zevin (The Hole We're In), is his obvious love of literature — particularly short stories. Fikry runs Island Books, located on Alice Island, a fictional version of Martha's Vineyard. It's a 'persnickety little bookstore,' in the words of Amelia Loman, the new sales rep for Knightley Press. Her first meeting with Fikry does not go well. He's disgruntled by the state of publishing, and bereft because his beloved wife, Nic, recently died in a car accident. Soon after the meeting, he suffers another loss: a rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's poem Tamerlane (Fikry's primary retirement asset) goes missing. But then Fikry finds an abandoned toddler in his bookstore with a note saying, 'This is Maya. She is twenty-five months old.' Somewhat unbelievably, Maya ends up in his care and, predictably enough, opens the irascible bookseller's heart. The surprisingly expansive story includes a romance between Fikry and Amelia, and follows Maya to the age of 18 before arriving at a bittersweet denouement. Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"Readers who delighted in Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Jessica Brockmole's Letters from Skye will be equally captivated by this adult novel by a popular YA author about a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love." Library Journal, starred review

Review:

"The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us of what saves us all from a life of loneliness and isolation: our sense of empathy; our ability to love and be loved; our willingness to care and be cared for." Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Review:

"A breezy, big-hearted treat, especially if you've ever wondered about the inner workings of America's national treasures — neighborhood bookstores." Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

Review:

"This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love — love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory." Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

Review:

"In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books....Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere." Booklist

Review:

"Sometimes funny, sometimes true to life and always entertaining....A likable literary love story about selling books and finding love." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"I don't appreciate the position I'm in with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I resent the skill and verve that Ms. Z. shows in this quirky, punchy novel. I don't like that it's so readable, so appealing. I disdain its damnable charm, its succinctness, its crisp, clear tone! AAAUGH!...VERDICT: This lightning fast read is super-enjoyable; hide it inside a Popular Mechanics." Library Journal's Books for Dudes blog

Synopsis:

In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin's enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books — and booksellers — that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.

About the Author

Gabrielle Zevin has published six adult and young adult novels, including Elsewhere, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, which has been translated in over twenty languages. She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart), for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

Ellen Skagerberg, October 22, 2014 (view all comments by Ellen Skagerberg)
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?
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
JBev, October 21, 2014 (view all comments by JBev)
"No Man is an Island: Every Book is a World." is posted on a sign outside of Island Books. And, truly, this book is quite a wonderful world! As a former bookstore employee, it appealed to me because it is set in a bookstore, but, of course, the story goes way beyond that world. The people who live on Alice Island are so true to life, so varied, so funny, so irritating, so loving and this book so well written that I didn't want to move on from Alice Island nor leave the people who are a part of Island Books. The twists and turns of their lives is close to home, so realistic, so touching I didn't want the story to end even though I did want to know how their worlds were changing. Now, of course, I have to add this book to my to-be-reread shelf ... and have to seek out Gabrielle Zevin's earlier works. This book is a treasure, and I suspect that Ms. Zevin will prove to be also.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
FBB, May 16, 2014 (view all comments by FBB)
In so many ways this is a beautiful book! The characters, some of them odd/eccentric, are eventually lovable. I hated to return this book to its owner. Read this novel--- you won't be disappointed. And it will be a long time before you forget A. J. and the other characters.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781616203214
Author:
Zevin, Gabrielle
Publisher:
Workman
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20140401
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$17.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Workman - English 9781616203214 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Zevin's novel is a delight! A. J. Fikry is a bitter man, and it bleeds into his chosen profession of bookselling. Then you watch this sad man transform into a bookseller of passion as love impacts his life. It's funny and quietly powerful, and it will move you to tears.

"Staff Pick" by ,

A. J. Fikry, proprietor of Island Books — an irascible, unpleasant sort of fellow — suffers the theft of his prized copy of Tamerlane: a book so rare, it has recently sold for $400,000. Yes, he left the door unlocked. Shortly thereafter, a baby is abandoned in his bookstore, with pleas to Fikry to raise the baby surrounded by literature. Fikry suffers from epilepsy. Hmmmm, this is sounding a bit familiar, eh?

This book is a lovely nod to George Eliot's classic Silas Marner, about an unlikable epileptic who loses his money after leaving his door unlocked, and then raises a baby he finds. See?

Hilarious (and particularly fun for anyone working in the book field), this is laugh-out-loud funny. Until it isn't. Then it's sweetly sad and sort of heartbreaking. But, this quirky and smart, book-filled ride is "unputdownable" (sometimes this is the only descriptor that works, despite how much of a cliché it is), and you will love Zevin's breezy but poignant style. Fikry's own shelf-talkers are an amusing diversion throughout (and a great lesson in how not to write a shelf-talker).

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The only thing that's 'storied' in the life of A.J. Fikry, a curmudgeonly independent bookseller, in this funny, sad novel from Zevin (The Hole We're In), is his obvious love of literature — particularly short stories. Fikry runs Island Books, located on Alice Island, a fictional version of Martha's Vineyard. It's a 'persnickety little bookstore,' in the words of Amelia Loman, the new sales rep for Knightley Press. Her first meeting with Fikry does not go well. He's disgruntled by the state of publishing, and bereft because his beloved wife, Nic, recently died in a car accident. Soon after the meeting, he suffers another loss: a rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's poem Tamerlane (Fikry's primary retirement asset) goes missing. But then Fikry finds an abandoned toddler in his bookstore with a note saying, 'This is Maya. She is twenty-five months old.' Somewhat unbelievably, Maya ends up in his care and, predictably enough, opens the irascible bookseller's heart. The surprisingly expansive story includes a romance between Fikry and Amelia, and follows Maya to the age of 18 before arriving at a bittersweet denouement. Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Readers who delighted in Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Jessica Brockmole's Letters from Skye will be equally captivated by this adult novel by a popular YA author about a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love." Library Journal, starred review
"Review" by , "The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us of what saves us all from a life of loneliness and isolation: our sense of empathy; our ability to love and be loved; our willingness to care and be cared for." Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
"Review" by , "A breezy, big-hearted treat, especially if you've ever wondered about the inner workings of America's national treasures — neighborhood bookstores." Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins
"Review" by , "This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love — love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory." Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child
"Review" by , "In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books....Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere." Booklist
"Review" by , "Sometimes funny, sometimes true to life and always entertaining....A likable literary love story about selling books and finding love." Kirkus Reviews
"Review" by , "I don't appreciate the position I'm in with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I resent the skill and verve that Ms. Z. shows in this quirky, punchy novel. I don't like that it's so readable, so appealing. I disdain its damnable charm, its succinctness, its crisp, clear tone! AAAUGH!...VERDICT: This lightning fast read is super-enjoyable; hide it inside a Popular Mechanics." Library Journal's Books for Dudes blog
"Synopsis" by , In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin's enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books — and booksellers — that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.
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