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

Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Format/Source: ebook/Library
Published: April 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Length: 260 pages
Genre: General fiction
Why I Read: Popular in the blogosphere, easily accessible
Read If You’re: A book lover
Quote: “Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time”.
Rating:  ★★★★½ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon
I’m starting to run out of general fiction ebooks on my TBR list that are available through the library… These are the sorts of book I like to read during a busy week, but don’t like enough to purchase. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry would usually be one of those books – however, I enjoyed this book so much I’ll be purchasing a hard copy!

 I thought Zevin wrote a strong introduction. I like how the reader is introduced to Fikry initially from a stranger’s perspective. I made some disapproving noises at his don’t like list, then I made some sad sounds at his state of mind. This introduction hits home about how easy it is for people to misunderstand one another. Fikry grew on me as he himself grew. His development felt real. My favourite character is Lambiase, especially with his devotion to Costco appetizers (I feel you, man). He’s a good man, a nice, reasonable human being (how he reacts around page 177 solidified my opinion). What I especially loved about this story was reading about different people for whom books, played a significant role in their lives, in varying capacities. Finally, I was really pleased by the diversity in this book. This story shows how easy it can be to include diverse characters without skin colour being a defining characteristic of the book.

Despite the cover (I was so used to seeing the red and cream one, that doesn’t have any people on it), I had no idea a child was going to be key character.  When I read about a ‘mysterious package’, I become concerned I was going to get another plot like Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But I pressed on! I loved A.J. Fikry and company far more than I loved Penumbra and company. This book is really just about stories and how we love them and what they mean to us and how they shape our loves. It doesn’t try too hard, it’s not too pushy or mushy or contrived (okay, maybe it’s a little contrived. Maaaaaaybe a little mushy. But not too much for me!). What lover of books doesn’t wish they could have grown up in a bookstore? I was tickled by the description of little Maya’s mornings in the bookstore (67-8). I did ask myself, “Is it twee?” but I answered “NAW I ADORE IT”. I loved the conversation A.J. and Amelia have on their first date. It sounds like a conversation I might have (oh, someday, maybe, haha). I shouted in agreement when A.J. confessed his disappointment over Turkish Delight (79). I had the exact same experience – as I’m sure more than one reader has. I liked the book recommendations at the start of each chapter, as well. A more thoughtful reader than I would probably realize their (the recommendations) context before it becomes obvious. 

Above I said something about the story being not too push, mushy or contrived. Well, even I can’t deny that there is some melodrama and some less-than-realistic moments…but I loved it all the same. If you are even a little bit sentimental about books and reading, I think you will enjoy this book. It is amusing, it is delightful, it has heart. If you love to read, you will likely find plenty of moments in this book to connect with, even if the overarching plot is a bit much for your tastes.

This is a small, quick book but it has everything I want a book about books to have. I don’t need to say much more. By now it should be obvious whether you might like this book or not. For me, it came at just the right moment to connect with my reading soul. I’ve always loved reading but over the past years it’s become more and more important to me. This book reminded me that I’m not the only one experiencing the joys and woes of loving stories. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much four or five years ago. The quote above is a popular one on Goodreads, but it just so happens to describe how I feel about this book.

The Bottom Line: Have you ever felt a positive emotion in reaction to a book? Then you too may love this little story.

Further Reading: 

  • Haha, same here, despite of the cover I had no idea that Maya was going to play such a big role in the story xD And Lambiase is such a wonderful character =D Great review, I'm glad you enjoyed this book 🙂

  • Love your review! I've read this but haven't posted my review yet.