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
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.
"Zevin has done something old-fashioned and fairly rare these days. She has written an entertaining novel, modest in its scope, engaging and funny without being cloying or sentimental. On top of all that, it is marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both." The Washington Post
"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
"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
"A beautiful story about getting a second chance at love." The A. V. Club
"The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is 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
"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
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.