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
The irascible A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books--the only bookstore on Alice Island--has already lost his wife. Now his most prized possession, a rare book, has been stolen from right under his nose in the most embarrassing of circumstances. The store itself, it seems, will be next to go.
One night upon closing, he discovers a toddler in his children's section with a note from her mother pinned to her Elmo doll: "I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her." A search for Maya's mother, A. J.'s rare book, and good childcare advice ensues, but it doesn't take long for the locals to notice the transformation of both bookstore and owner, something of particular interest to the lovely yet eccentric Knightley Press sales rep, Amelia Loman, who makes the arduous journey to Alice Island thrice each year to pitch her books to the cranky owner.
"Bookstore owner A.J. Fikry is a bitter curmudgeon, but, as we soon learn, his sour attitude masks deep sadness and loneliness about the death of his wife. The mysterious arrival of a baby girl in A.J.'s shop with a note asking him to care for her brings about events that open his heart to love, hope, and life. Brick's empathetic narration captures A.J. perfectly in all his cantankerous and tender moods, and particularly when he rhapsodizes over books, in which he finds not only comfort and enjoyment, but a lens through which to interpret life. Brick voices A.J. in a way that sounds entirely natural for example, when A.J. is trying to work something out, Brick speaks slowly, as though searching for the right words to express his thoughts, and then sounds startled and triumphant as A.J. has a realization. His warm, compassionate, thoughtful reading will draw listeners in throughout this gentle, sweetly satisfying tale. An Algonquin hardcover. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious.”
—Publishers Weekly AudioFile
“Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.”
—Library Journal [HC starred review] Library Journal
“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, funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere.”
—Booklist Family Circle
“Not only does Brick illuminate plot subtleties, he also honors the author’s passion for books, bookstores, wordplay, and the connections between love and literature.”
—AudioFile [Earphones Award Winner] The Washington Post
“[A] sweet yet soulful tale of love, loss, the power of friendship—and books. Like sunshine on a breezy spring day, you won’t want it to end.”
—Family Circle NPR
“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 BookPage
“A love letter to the joys of reading.”
“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance, but is at its core a love story: love of books, love of family, love of community. It is as enchanting a book as you will read this year.”
—BookPage Entertainment Weekly
“Fikry and his motley group of friends and family are easy to cheer for. . . . Much like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, this book could easily become a dark-horse bestseller. It is, after all, quite charming.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune Daily American
“[A] jaunty novel.”
—Entertainment Weekly Library Journal
—Daily American Sunday Eagle
“[Scott Brick] does an excellent job. Prepare to be enchanted by this work.”
“Anyone who loves books, bookstores and the world that reading opens up will love this book.”
With his wife gone, a rare book stolen, and both his bookstore and love of life in serious decline, only something extraordinary could alter the sagging fortunes of A. J. Fikry and Island Books. What he discovers one night among the children’s books, however, could change everything.
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. She lives in Los Angeles.