This review appeared in the July 2015 issue of the Diablo Gazette.
Being a voracious reader, one that loves to be surrounded by books, when not rummaging through bookstores, I always get an extra spark of enjoyment whenever I read a story about a reader. Or a writer. Or, in the case of Gabrielle Zevin’s short, quirky, and bittersweet novel, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, a cranky bookseller.
I just love reading stories about book people.
The reasons for Fikry’s crankiness are painful and easy to relate to. After a tragic car accident claims the life of his beloved wife, overwhelming grief and depression so cloud his mind and heart he loses all interest in running his bookstore; its sales are beginning a lethal downward spiral into bankruptcy.
Making it even worse, the new sales representative for a small publishing house tries to push a September romance memoir titled The Late Bloomer on him. Fikry hates memoirs. He also hates children’s books, contemporary novels, and, worse of all, genre fiction.
The only thing A.J. Fikry believes he has going for him is a rare edition of Tamerlane, Edgar Allan Poe’s first published work. He decides that auctioning off the book will net him just enough money to drink himself to death in isolated peace, without having to worry about his finances.
Fate, random or divinely ordained, has other plans for Fikry, though. He awakens to find that his edition of Tamerlane has been stolen, his apartment cleaned, and an abandoned toddler sitting in his store.
These events turn out to be just the thing needed to knock Fikry’s mind and heart out of the destructive rut they had become stuck in. They are also the starting point of an almost three hundred page love letter to the contagious delights of reading, and the joys of talking about it with others, that is sure to delight any bookworm.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is also a great book to recommend to non-reading friends and relatives that have expressed interest in finding out what it is about reading books that you enjoy so much.
At one point Fikry says, “You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?” This novel is certain to be on a great many readers list of favorite books.
I put it on mine.