They say rescue animals have a way finding the person that needs them the most, not the other way around. The same can be said of books. People will inevitably be summoned by the book they need at that moment in their lives.
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." ~ The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was recommended to me by one of my followers. It is her latest adult fiction novel in a long line of books she has written for fans of adult and young adult fiction. I do not like to put spoilers in my book reviews, so any aspect of the plot I mention in a review is also made clear in the book's official blurb. Unfortunately, sometimes this policy makes it a bit difficult to write a review. But here goes......
First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the uniqueness of this novel. One of the key aspects of this book, and one I fell in love with, is the setting. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry takes place on Alice Island - which is fictionally located off the coast of Massachusetts, just a ferry ride from Hyannis. More specifically, in the small bookstore owned by A.J. Fikry himself. Island Books, as the store is named, actually takes on a "persona" of its own, becoming a main character. I can't think of a more ideal location for me than a bookstore on a quaint, New England island.....but I digress.
The second key aspect of this novel which I loved was the passion for books shared by A.J. and the other characters - all with varying opinions and preferences. A.J. lived his life relating every occurrence to one piece of literature or another. Ironically, however, and adding a touch of humor, A.J. is actually a bookshop owner who dislikes most genres, book promotion parties, and doesn't have a nice thing to say about authors.
The third aspect I wish to discuss are the characters themselves. It was my connection to them, on very real and basic terms, that propelled the momentum of this novel for me. And, it wasn't just the main characters that drew me in. There are many secondary characters who also made the story richer and tied in all the pieces, whether it was the troubled relationship of A.J.'s in-laws or the interactions with locals who form book clubs in his store.
The novel follows A.J.'s life struggles - from dealing with the loss of his wife and then having a rare and valuable edition of poems by Edgar Allan Poe stolen, to a life-altering event that leads to his transformation which spans the course of approximately 15 years. An ongoing theme in the story is the idea that readers will either connect with a story or not based on where they are in their own lives. I am finding that becoming more and more evident in my own life as I am exposed to various novels and diverse readers.
"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." ~ The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Zevin gives us the right amount of tender moments and romance, even an unexpected twist or two, and proves people can be brought together because of their love of a book. In the end, all of us readers leave behind a list of favorites that somehow explains what's in our hearts. I recommend this novel to all lovers of literature and to anyone who has ever been touched by the written word.
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