Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevinn

This book, a tribute to a love of books and reading, as well as a tribute to love, is so warm and wonderful, it almost feels like a big hug. It put me in a wonderful but slightly sentimental mood, and the word "sweet" keeps coming to my mind for some reason.

"What, in this life, is more personal than books?"

A.J. Fikry is the cantankerous owner of Island Books on Massachusetts' Alice Island (a fictionalized version of Martha's Vineyard). Lonely since the sudden, tragic death of his wife a few months earlier, his business is struggling as much as he is. He's drinking a little too much (maybe a lot too much) and giving serious thought to closing the store, but that doesn't stop his definitive ideas about what types of books he should sell to his customers. (The list of the types of books he doesn't like fills nearly an entire page.)

But then three incidents change the course of his life—a disastrous meeting with the new sales representative of a publisher whose books A.J. sells in the store; the disappearance of a rare copy of an Edgar Allan Poe book that A.J. was hoping to use to aid his life after closing the store; and the unexpected discovery of a nearly two-year-old baby left in the store. Each of these events affects him in different ways, and each helps him see the potential of life beyond heartache, and that when you open your heart and you open your mind, your life may open as well.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a charming, sappy, and predictable book that absolutely tugs at your heartstrings. It doesn't matter that you can figure out the plot twists before they occur—Gabrielle Zevinn knows how to tell an utterly compelling story that hooks you from the beginning, even when A.J.'s character isn't the most appealing. Zevinn's love for her characters and, more importantly, her love of reading and books, shines through like a beacon, making you feel as if you're part of a special world when you enjoy reading.

Sadly, there aren't many bookstores like Island Books anymore, but luckily there are books like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry to make you fall in love with reading all over again. This appreciation of how different kinds of love can truly change a person may not be unique, but it's tremendously special all the same.

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