I received a free review copy of this ebook from Edelweiss, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 1 April 2014.
Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a book for bibliophiles. Fikry is a curmudgeon and a book snob. He only reads books that meet a certain set of criteria. He drinks after the shop is closed to forget the love of his life, who died in a car crash almost two years before the book opens. The only thing he values anymore is a rare edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s first published works. Until he finds two-year old Maya in the small children’s section of his bookstore, Island Books.
Each chapter in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry begins with a citation for a short story with a paragraph addressed to Maya. She completely changes A.J.’s life. He goes from reluctantly watching her and Googling how to bathe a toddler, to asking the social worker if he can keep Maya a little longer, to adopting her. She brings him out of his grief, slowly but surely. He recovers enough to ask out Amelia Loman, the publisher representative he tossed out of his bookstore just before he found Maya. Together, the three of them build a life together.
The years roll by. Maya grows up. A.J. and Amelia create in-jokes and bicker and love each other. The bookstore becomes the center of the town, hosting dozens of book groups. The love of reading becomes contagious. There are ups and downs, joys and sorrows and triumphs and some very good stories. The ending is masterly. I can’t say much, because it will ruin the effect. But I will say that everything comes full circle.
The plot of this book is brief, but it hums. The dialog is delightful, sharp, and feels utterly real. The book is full of references to books and author’s I’ve read. They have nerdy book arguments that I’ve had. I wish that Alice Island and Island Books were real so that I could visit them. I can’t say enough good things about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.