Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Published: April 2014, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Format: ARC Paperback, 230 pages
Source: Publisher/She Reads
In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin's enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books-and booksellers-that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
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.
My thoughts: Every once in a while, you read a book that you just love so much, it's hard to put into words. That's this book. I am so glad that the powers-that-be over at She Reads picked this for our April Book Club Selection - I had never heard of Gabrielle Zevin before, but she is definitely on my radar now.
This book is about a bookseller and his love of books. I loved A.J. - he's a quirky, unique character that just wormed his way into my heart. From the first pages of the book, I was hooked and couldn't put this book down. There was something so endearing about A.J., he's the type of character that stays with you long after you finish the book. I also loved the other characters, too, especially Amelia, Maya and Lambiase. Such an interesting cast of characters make up this book!
There are relationships forged in A.J.'s bookshop that change lives. It's a sweet, charming story that will at times have you laughing and at times have you shedding a few tears. It's about love, second chances and of course, a love of reading.
I've always had a pipe dream of opening my own bookstore and if I ever do, I hope that I have one like Island Books - one that encourages people to read, where people who previously shied away from books start running to the bookstore when new books are released, where the shop becomes a cool place to hang out, where authors love to come visit. This book gives me the hope that maybe one day my dream can become a reality!
This book is definitely a keeper - I certainly foresee myself rereading it many times. It's also a book that will be at the top of my book recommendation list when friends or family ask what to read next!
The April Book Club Selection from She Reads is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Head over to the She Reads website to read other reviews and related posts as well as a chance to win a copy of the book.