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