Happy Saturday, everyone! Hope you’re having a great weekend. I made it back to the library today and checked out three books for myself! This is a big deal for me in the last few months. I hope to be finally moving out of pregnancy nausea and back into reading.
Tonight I’m here with a review of a book I read at the start of November and soon after I was too sick to think about writing a review. So here I am a few months late.
I first heard about The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry in a review of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. In the review, it talked about how TRoBWR is a great novel for fans of A. J. Fikry. I immediately added it to my TBR.
I love books that are about bookstores. Perhaps because the protagonists are often bookish nerds like me. Or I just love all the literary references. Or because I would love to own a little one-of-a-kind bookstore myself someday. This one was quirky and bookish and fun.
- This novel is only about 300 pages and reads pretty quickly. The prose is light and easy to get invested in.
- Of course, I loved the bookish elements in this novel. The bookstore is quirky and A. J. is a fantastic bookish owner. We get to see more about the side of running a bookstore with Amelia coming to sell new publications and the book reading they host later. I loved the book clubs, the touristy customers, the way A. J. talks about books, and the bookstore.
- I was surprised by the emotions in this novel. Some of the plot twists were unexpected and emotive. But I think they made the novel more powerful. However, there are some more intense issues like marital affairs, robbery, and terminal illness.
- I want to go find A. J.’s bookstore and spend hours browsing the shelves.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin follows the story of A. J. Fikry, a bookstore owner in a New England tourist town who just lost his wife in a car accident. He is unhappy and despondent about life, despite the best efforts of Lambiase (his friend and local police office), Ismay (his sister-in-law who won’t let him be depressed), and Amelia (the attractive and eccentric new sales rep for Knightely Press. One night, someone leaves a surprising package in the bookstore that changes A. J. life forever. As Goodreads puts it: “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 characters in this novel are genuine and relatable. In fact, they were the highlight of the novel for me. I felt like I was reading about my neighbors, friends, and acquaintances. A. J. is a quirky and likable protagonist. He loves books, enjoys running a bookstore, and has strong opinions about which books are best. I was glad to see him find happiness and fulfillment in his life. Amelia is probably my favorite character. She isn’t afraid to be herself and sees past the walls A. J. works to put up between them. Lambiase and Ismay are flawed but want to be better and that makes them endearing.
I enjoyed the mini-reviews from A. J. throughout the novel. I haven’t seen a book with something like that. And I thought they were clever–adding a neat dimension to the story. It seems appropriate for a bookish novel to have a fun bookish element. It made A. J. feel more real–like he was talking to the readers. Plus those reviews were cleverly connected to the plot twists at the end of the novel (which I will not give away).
The story was not what I expected. The novel effortlessly weaves books through a story of the human condition and second chances. I have read a lot of historical fiction lately, which I enjoy. But this was different. First, it was more of realistic fiction or contemporary fiction. And second, it was simple. It’s the story of a man and the people he interacts with. It’s about relationships and how we all deserve second chances. It’s about finding love in books, in others, and in ourselves.
Naturally, my favorite quotes are bookish. There are some great ones in this novel:
“Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time.”
“A place is not really a place without a bookstore.”
“There ain’t nothing in the world like book people.”
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, page 92, 200, 254
I love the nerdiness! One of my favorite quotes comes from the end of the novel when A. J. is talking about love.
“We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. My life is in these books …. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels … we are not quite short stories… in the end. We are collected works.”
“We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on.”
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, pages 249, 251
This novel surprised me. I found myself completely drawn into A. J.’s story and was rooting for him throughout the novel. The ending is emotional and leaves readers with a strong appreciation for love, life, and books.
I recommend this bookish novel to anyone who loves books or bookstores. A beautiful tribute to the power of books to change our lives, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is for book lovers everywhere.
What novels about bookstores should I add to my TBR?