The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


The words you can’t find, you borrow

A.J. Fikry is a lonely bookstore owner with a deep appreciation for certain literature and a “purcupine heart.”  He calls himself old and decrepit, but he’s really just a quirky middle-aged man who forgot how to take care of himself.  Island Books used to be a hub of activity in its small town – filled with children, laughter, and happy customers.  But since his wife died, A.J. hasn’t cared for the bookstore the way he used to.  Island Books is still open and fully functional, but its reputation has soured since A.J. became a widower, shutting out the world and his heart.

But when a mysterious woman abandons her child in the store the same week his prized (and highly valuable) Edgar Allen Poe book is stolen, A.J. must abruptly awaken from his haze of grief, self-pity, and depression in order to save a life.  But A.J. needs saving more than anyone, so toddler Maya is just the breath of fresh air that he needs.

At first, A.J. isn’t up to the challenge, but after he reassures himself the child’s disruptive presence is only temporary, he agrees to foster Maya.  A.J.’s adjustment to parenting is quite comical, and so are Maya’s reactions.  So it’s no surprise when the town rallies behind Mr. Fikry and little Maya, and Island Books is a prospering community presence once again – complete with book clubs, storytimes, and author events.  As A.J. says, “Once a person gives a shit about one thing, he finds he has to start giving a shit about everything.”

The rest of the story follows A.J., Maya and their various relationships with the locals as A.J. enjoys the best mid-life crisis he could hope for: An opportunity to re-experience love, joy, hope and fulfillment.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a bubbly tale of second chances and redemption, but it’s also a love story – of a man and his powerful relationship with literature.  The characters are a testament to the influence of bookstores in a community, and the importance of fostering a book-loving, spine-bending environment for the next generation.  If you’ve ever worked in a bookstore before, you’ll find a lot of familiarities in these pages, and if you’ve never worked in a bookstore before, you’ll probably want to.

With elements of romance, mystery, humor, and charm, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was the heart-warming tale I didn’t know I needed – one to remind readers to be kind, generous, and to never stop seeking out meaningful experiences, whether they be within the pages of a book or within a good conversation.

P.S. If you’re looking for a light and inspirational read or a good book to give someone for Valentine’s Day, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a perfect choice.  And, as a hardcore nail art enthusiast, I must randomly say that I appreciate Zevin’s shout out to nail polish in this book! To me, there’s nothing better than a good book and a nice bottle of polish.

Zevin_Fikry_pbk_jkt_FINAL_9_11_book.indd ★★★★☆
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books
272 Pages
ISBN 9781616204518

About Karli Cude

Karli Cude, previous moderator of Hooked Bookworm, is an avid reader and former bookseller. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in English Literature in 2010 and completed a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences in 2013.