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Title: The Storied life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Published: 1st of April 2014 — Algonquin Books
Format: Physical & eARC (NetGalley) — 320 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
Today I’m so happy to be bringing you this very long overdue review for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, that I read for the #BlogTour organised by Algonquin Books to celebrate the release of the film.
Thank you so much to Algonquin for letting me take part in this tour and thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m sorry it took a long time, but all opinions are my own!
Keep on reading to find out my thoughts about this unique and emotional book!
A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. 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.
Trigger warnings: mention of dead wife and how she died, child abandonment, suicide, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, vomit, losing a loved one, car accident.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a contemporary literary fiction book about books and the power of words and love. It is a book I don’t think I would ever have picked up or even heard about had it not been for the email from Algonquin Books inviting me to be part of the tour, so thank you so much!
I’m not going to do my usual review breakdown as this wouldn’t work for this book, but I’ll just tell you all the things I loved about it and what makes it such a special story.
To start off, this is definitely not the kind of book that I usually pick up, as I’m not a fan of literary fiction or even contemporary fiction, I much prefer genre fiction such as fantasy or historical fiction. However, I was intrigued by the blurb and the praise this book received and it very pleasantly surprised me and I found myself reading it in a very short time. The thing that really sold it for me is that it is a book about books, about the love of the written word, how books help and heal and how they help us to love. There were some great literary references that also made me smile. I mean if you are a book lover, you can’t dislike this book for the simple reason that it’s about the love of books!!
I would say this is more of a character-driven book because even though there is a plot, about how A.J. grows throughout the book and with the people around him, but it’s a lot more character-driven in my opinion. I do prefer books to be plot-driven, but the way it was written was done really well here. Which brings me to the writing style. It was beautiful. Truly mesmerising and this is what kept me turning the pages. It was a really effortless style that made me want to know more right then and there, but also the kind of book you wish you had savoured a little longer, or want to read for the first time again.
In my opinion, this is a light “feel-good” book that you can curl up with in front of the fire, under a blanket, with a cup of something warm and something sweet to eat during the cold winter months. It feels like a very comforting read and that makes it perfect for this time of year, or if you’re in a reading slump. It’s also the kind of book that makes you feel a bit lost when you’ve finished it and I’m not ashamed to say that it was a very emotional read for me at the end and made me shed some tears — which is a true feat to accomplish when I’m the reader!
One small negative thing I will say is that I found the middle (about 150 pages in, to about 250 pages) quite slow and just something felt a bit off about the narrative. I can’t put my finger on it, but it might have been the “romantic” parts that felt way too rushed or not detailed enough. I can’t seem to find the words I need and even my brain won’t cooperate, but I suppose it was a bit slower and draggy in between those pages, but that’s only my personal opinion and could be just a “reader’s personal taste” kind of thing, so I wouldn’t let it bother you too much! Definitely give this one a shot for yourself!
“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”
FINAL THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, I enjoyed this book and was surprised by it. I was kind of hoping that it would be a cute easy read, and the movie trailer definitely gave off those vibes. I will have to see where I can find it so I can watch it with my fiancé soon!
I loved that most of this book took part in Island Books, the bookstore owned by the main character and that his daughter got to grow up there, surrounded by hundreds of amazing books. I think that’s the life all bookworms dream of, so it’s a beautiful thing to read about.
It was a really sweet, beautifully-written heartwarming story with a touch of bitterness at the end that makes you appreciate the whole story, because I won’t hide it from you, the ending is sad, but also uplifting.It definitely deserved the tears I shed about it.
I gave The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin 4 stars, and I’m thrilled to have been given the chance to read it for the Algonquin Books blog tour! I’m now going to be picking up her next book that is very much hyped at the moment: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. I need more beautiful writing from this author.
If you love light, feel-good, heartwarming stories, books about books and the power of words and love, you love beautiful writing that sweeps you up and makes you cry (but in a happy/sad way!), this is 100% the book for you. I highly recommend it and hope you love it!
Atmosphere – 6
Start – 6.5
Pacing – 7
Ending – 8
Characters – 7
Theme – 7.5
Style – 8.5
Total = 50.5
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post.
See you soon, stay safe,