A Review of "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry," by Gabrielle Zevin

February 2, 2017

A.J. Fikry is a misanthrope, a misfit, a learned man of books whose irascibility would drive his customers at Island Bookstore elsewhere were it not for the fact that he is the only bookseller on his touristy island--Alice Island, off of Hyannis Port. He had become more settled in these ways--friendless and drinking every night until he passed out--after his wife, two months pregnant, died in a car wreck. 

 

But the Universe has other plans for A.J. He first meets Amelia, a new publisher's rep who comes to call. He's so rude to her, he later gets extra drunk from the guilt hangover.  When he regains consciousness the next day, his prized and valuable copy of "Tamerlane" is missing, leading him down the street to the police station, where he meets Chief Lambiaze, another unique charater. Upon returning to the store, he finds a baby with a note pinned to her clothing. Thank God, he can turn to Ismay, his sister-in-law, for help and advice. These plot elements are not spoilers--these events happen withing the first twenty-five or so pages. And they launch the rest of the book.

 

A unique (as far as I'm aware) structural tidbit about this book is that at the beginning of every chapter, there is a commentary on a well-known short story written by A.J. himself. The stories, for the most part, and the comments A.J. makes, fit into each chapter of his life. Sometimes that's not evident until the end of the book, when all the threads come together. We see the relevance of the title: "The Storied Life. . . ." The first chapter is preceded, for example, by a glimpse at Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter." Don't skip these tidbits. They are charming and part of what makes this a book-lover's book.

 

It's a quick read, one that kept me turning pages. With all these serious issues going on--and the dead seriousness of A.J. and his intellectual snobbery--there's lots of humor. And irony. My kind of book. 

 

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